Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gratitude Visit

Expressing gratitude to others is among the most effective ways of raising our own and others' level of happiness and well-being.

The gratitude visit exercise was practised as part of Martin Seligman's positive psychology class and was considered one of the highlights of the class.

For a gratitude visit exercise, Martin Seligman suggests to select one important person from our past who had made a major positive difference in our life and to whom we could never express our gratitude. Then with adequate thought and time, a testimonial expressing our appreciation should be written. The length of the testimonial should be about one page.

When ready, the testimonial should be read to the person face to face and not expressed over phone or sent by mail. We can travel to the person's home or invite him/her over, but not tell the purpose of the meeting in advance. After settling down, the testimonial can be read aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. A laminated version of the testimonial should be a gift.

Expressing appreciation in this manner positively impacts relationships and the happiness of both the recipient and the person coveying gratitude.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, meaning grace, graciousness, or gratefulness.

Typically gratitude originates from the perception of a positive personal outcome, not necessarily deserved or earned, that is due to the actions of another person.

Gratitude interventions have been evaluated favourably in studies. Writing down up to five things major or minor for which one is grateful or thankful for, on a daily or even weekly basis has been shown to increase the sense of well being in study participants.

Putting aside a minute or two everyday to express gratitude can have far reaching consequences. Experiences of gratitude have been associated with happiness, positive emotions and well being. Grateful people are less depressed, less stressed, have more positive traits and are more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.

To avoid habituation, Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that the exercise be done on a weekly basis. Tal Ben-Shahar says that to ingrain it, the exercise be done daily and to maintain freshness one should make a conscious effort to diversify the elements. Independent studies have shown both methods to be effective.

One can practice the exercise with children by asking them at night what was fun for them during the whole day.

Emmons RA, McCullough ME. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003;84:377-89. [Abstract] [Full text]