How to Write a Letter of Gratitude

blog4THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GRATITUDE WAVE.

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Words: they encapsulate the way we perceive and publicize ourselves with the world.  They offer a mode of capturing and communicating the images that have been meticulously sculpted within our mind.  They allow us to decipher, understand and empathize with others.  The way we use, choose and abuse them is an echo of who we are.  Our unique use of language is a mirror into our soul.  We are our words and we should use them wisely.

As little children we are taught how to speak and our thoughts and ideas are captured within our language.   The circles that surround us impress upon us the rules of use.  As we grow and experience, our language too evolves.  New people come in and out of our lives and our words change.  Have you ever had that experience of incorporating a new “catch phrase” into your vocabulary?  Of course you have, or else we would all be forever trapped within the era in which we learned our language.  It would be highly unlikely to catch me saying “I am so stoked to party hardy dude.  It’s going to be so tubular!”

Much like the way our language evolves with societal shifts, our experiences also add to our repertoire.  Fifteen or twenty years ago I never fathomed I would use words like abuse, intuition, or even gratitude the way that I do at this very moment.  And I know that as I grow, my language will too.

What I also never foresaw was the tremendous impact that writing and gratitude would have on my life. As a little girl, I loved to paint worlds with pen; yet, I didn’t realize how much peace I could find within them.  It wasn’t until after Rob and I wrote “The Letters of Gratitude” that I really understood the true cathartic nature of writing.  I can recall shortly after writing the book, a women somewhat maliciously ranted about the dangers of dwelling.  I understood her point, but perhaps more importantly I reaffirmed how I really felt about it.  I am not a victim of my past; I am an advocate of it. Those words became a powerful mantra for my life and changed the way in which I navigate the world.

Now here is the really powerful stuff!  Shortly after writing the book, Rob and I came across a study conducted by Kent State University.  Through research, that study overwhelming demonstrated the correlation between writing letters of gratitude, happiness and overall life satisfaction.  Yes, it does seem intuitive; but, this provided proof to the premises we were living.  If you want to read that study, the link is provided below this article.

There are many ways to write a gratitude letter, but here I am going to offer two methods:

1) A Letter of Gratitude to Self:

Writing a gratitude letter to and for self is the very premise that we based our book upon.

  • To begin with, you need a journal that you can dedicate to the topic.
  • Start with a goal.  For example, “I am going to write a daily letter of gratitude to myself for one week”.  Choose something manageable and tangible for you.  Take an honest look at your schedule and decide on a time-frame/goal that works for you.
  • Next, write about whatever you want.  Before writing, pause for a moment and allow whatever pops into your mind become your topic.  Perhaps it is a reiteration of your day, your children, your spouse, a friend etc.
  • 2 really simple rules: A) You are writing this for yourself so be HONEST.  Did you have a bad day? What is frustrating you? What do you really want in life? Be true to yourself. B) Here is the kicker: regardless of what you write about, get to a place of GRATITUDE.  How have your challenges made you a better person? How did your frustrations clarify who you want to be, or what you want? What lessons has your life taught you?  There is always something to be grateful for!
  • Make a choice to either share it, or not.  Think about that and ask yourself this  “Will you letter help clarify communication? Does it need to be expressed? Will someone feel good about learning this? Will you feel better for sharing it?”

2) Give a Letter of Gratitude:

  • Choose you method.  Computer, pen & paper etc.  Decide based on what is most comfortable to you.
  • Take some time to think about the people that are close to you.  Think about those who have been long forgotten.  Lastly, think about the people you do not want to think about.  Now, ask yourself “who evokes the strongest emotion?”  Regardless of whether it is a positive or negative emotion, choose the person that stirs the most.
  • A letter that begins with happiness is fairly clear on how and why you are writing.  Take the time to express why you are writing.  Write about what this person means to you.  Share how they have impacted your life.  What have they done to contribute to your life/mindset in a positive way?  Send it.
  • A letter that begins with what we traditionally categorize as a negative emotion is more challenging.  Try to keep in mind you are doing this for yourself first.  This letter may take a few efforts, but in the end it will be worthwhile.  Begin with why you are writing the letter.  Be honest and share your thoughts of past experiences etc.  This last component is imperative!  You need to get to a place of gratitude.  What did this teach you? How can you be thankful for the lesson?  Keep in mind that you are writing the letter to give, but you aren’t stuck to that.  In the end, do what is right for you!  Making peace with your past will help you to enjoy the moment that is before you.
  • After all of that, think about how you feel?  Exhausted? Relieved? Happy? Love?  Do you want to write another?  Choose what is right for you and it is okay if you do not!

Our language captures the repertoire of our life and experiences.  More than just words, we can use them to change our own lives and those that surround us.  Gratitude is able to both open and shut doors.  When we are aware of that a language of gratitude can shift a life, the words can begin to shift ours.