In my June 4th Newsletter I invited my readers to complete an exercise in gratitude. And with all invitations I followed my own lead. What happened exceeded my expectations. Here’s the lowdown.
The backstory and invitation:
Do you ever have one of those moments where you are listening to a podcast or reading a book and you want to madly write it all down because it’s just that good?! Maybe it’s just me (#nerdalert), but seriously. Some days there are just so many good nuggets I can’t help but pull over (I often listen while I drive) and madly make notes.
Just this morning I had one of those times.
I was listening to an episode of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd (great podcast BTW). The guest was cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology Dr. Laurie Santos. You might recognize her name because her very popular course at Yale on The Science of Well-Being was made FREE shortly after the Pandemic and it’s been taken by over 2.5 million people. I’d say people are interested in the science of happiness.
I love her podcast (The Happiness Lab) and when I saw a friend share about this podcast with Dax I knew it’d be good.
It didn’t disappoint. For the link to the specific podcast episode, scroll down.
But one nugget I wanted to pass along that blew my mind was some research she mentioned by Dr. Martin Seligman. In this research he found that writing a gratitude letter to someone can increase your happiness for up to one month. Say what?!
Yeah. I know. #compelling
I looked into the research (of course I did).
Here’s the specifics on how to write it to maximize your happiness:
- Think of someone from your past that you never properly thanked or expressed gratitude to.
- Write them a letter (ideally it’s about 300 words and very specific).
- If you can read it to them in person (or perhaps on the phone or via Zoom right now).
This week our RunCrewClub #runVIchallenge BONUS Pit Stop Challenge is to do a random act of kindness. Fancy that!
So, I’m taking this on in the next few days and I thought I’d invite you todo the same.
If you’re feeling self-conscious about step 3 it’s all good. Just focus on what you are comfortable doing and hey, any potential increase in happiness is a good increase right?!
The backstory to my letter:
I decided to write my letter to a very early mentor of mine in the Fitness Industry. She was a site manager at a Corporate Fitness Centre I worked at back in 1999, when I was just dipping my toes in this whole “fitness” thing.
At the time I was a Kinesiology student at Simon Fraser University and I still had hopes of pursuing Physiotherapy. To strengthen my resume I’d decided to do Co-op. To strengthen my Co-op resume I decided to do an unpaid internship with BCTel. This is where I met my mentor and the trajectory of my career was forever altered. I know that sounds dramatic, but it truly was a game changer moment.
I fell in love with fitness, the corporate fitness model and the role I could play. I finally felt like I belonged in the industry and it was due in large part to this mentor.
Up to this point I was struggling with a giant case of imposter syndrome. Everybody I’d met in Kinesiology was an athlete (or at least had been in high school). My story was so different. I was the chubby kid who hated PE. Who the heck was I to be giving health and fitness advice – I was only starting to figure it out for myself!
Note: it took me years to get over this imposter syndrome, but it was meeting this specific mentor that planted the seed of change.
She was strong, confident, fit and an incredible instructor. She was a phenomenal leader and taught me so much about how to be successful in the industry. She was also in a bigger body. For the first time in my life I saw myself in someone in the industry. It changed everything.
I’d never shared this with her, nor how much she’d impacted me. So when I scanned my past for a person I wished to thank who may not know the impact they’d had she immediately popped into my mind.
What happened when I wrote my letter.
Since we’d lost touch many years ago I first had to hit the ground and find her. I put a few feelers out. No dice.
I decided to write the letter anyway. Just writing it felt so good.
Then I got a message from former colleague that she’d tracked her down (um, how cool is it that she got onside to help me with this)!? She sent me the email contact last Friday night.
I immediately sent an email to her facility with the request that they pass along my info.
Monday afternoon I got an email in my inbox. She reached out!
I replied immediately and shared my letter.
Tuesday morning when I opened my email my heart lifted. She had been incredibly moved by my letter. She’s not in fitness anymore (for a variety of reasons) and often wondered if she’d had an impact all those years ago. She reflected to me that she and her family have a gratitude ritual of their own. Each evening they reflect on their “rose, bud and thorn.” The rose is something they’re grateful for, the bud is something they’re hopeful about, and the thorn is something that’s been hard for them. She told me that today I would be her rose.
The interaction was extremely moving and we’ve officially reconnected shared pictures of our kids and dogs and made plans to connect next time I’m in her town. How cool is that?!
Reflections on writing a gratitude letter
It may sound like a silly exercise or like it might not make a lot of impact. But WOW would that assumption be wrong. The exchange was nothing short of moving and inspiring and I could not be more truly grateful I made the effort. I haven’t thought about her in years, but reflecting back and writing the letter caused me to pause and truly be grateful for my experience and the many people who have influenced me along the way.
I’m not sure whether I’ll be happier in a month per the research, but what I do know is I’m happier today having done this exercise. And I’ll take it.
Want to get newsletters like this to prompt you to do cool things to increase your happiness, vitality, health and well-being!? I send them weekly and they’re packed full of juicy goodness just like this. Check it out.