Gratitude Letter Challenge
The idea of this challenge is to write a letter to somebody who you think deserves your gratitude but may not have received it enough. This can be whomever you want it to be (friend, loved one, family, colleague, etc.) but it is recommended to pick somebody you can meet with, either face-to-face or through the internet. Evidence from positive psychology has shown that the letter makes for a great gift that can improve the mental health and disposition of all people involved.
Starting your letter
While the style of the letter and its level of formality is up to you, there are some guidelines that may help you with writing it:
- You may want to buy some nice writing paper to get your idea underway
- Address it directly (“Dear ____,”).
- Don’t worry about grammar and spelling until the letter is done.
- Try to keep the entire letter within one page.
Describing your gratitude
The letter concerns the event(s) that made you grateful towards this person and goes into detail to show the recipient why this means so much to you. Be concrete:
- Describe in specific terms what this person did, why you are grateful and how this has affected your life.
- Describe how your life is going right now and how often you remember his or her efforts.
- Thank the person and end the letter.
Exercise 1: Write your letter
Here, you can write the first draft of your gratitude letter. Alternatively, you can also think about the things you are grateful for and to whom you would like to express your gratitude. Write those ideas down as they will help you to formulate your gratitude letter when you feel ready.
Exercise 2: Sending and/or reading your letter
When your letter is complete (and checked for spelling and grammar), it is time to send it to the recipient. Research shows that this step is the most powerful in improving mental health. You can either:
- send this letter to the person through the post as a real letter, to make it extra beneficial, or email; or
- for even greater benefit, read the letter to the person live, either while visiting, by phone or through a video chat.
If you opt to read the letter, read it slowly and with feeling, while maintaining eye contact. Give the other person time to react. Make a trip down memory lane, especially try to retrieve events that made this person so important to you.
If you have opted to send the letter in the post or via email, make sure the recipient has received it, and then plan a meeting (face-to-face or online) with this person.
If this has worked for you, you may want to repeat the process with a few other people as well.