What is a Gratitude Visit?
A gratitude visit is a psychological exercise where a person identifies someone that has had a significant impact in their life, expresses gratitude in a letter or note, and then delivers the letter in person.
It was first used in a positive psychology study in 2005 by Martin Seligman to improve a person’s overall quality of life. The study looked at six therapeutic interventions, and found that the gratitude visit had the largest short-term effect.
Happiness scores from the gratitude visit increased by 10 percent while depression scores fell at the same time. These results lasted for up to one month after the visit.
The idea behind a gratitude visit is to express gratitude to someone that you may not have properly thanked. Some may refer to this process simply as a “gratitude letter”. However, others make the distinction that the “gratitude visit” consists of two parts. Both the letter itself, and the added step of reading the letter face to face with the other person.
Why Do A Gratitude Visit?
Research has shown gratitude visits can boost happiness for a significant length of time. But it can also improve your overall life satisfaction, amplify pleasant memories from your past, or help reforge or strengthen social bonds.
Here’s what Martin Seligman has to say from his book Flourish:
Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life.
Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless.
Because a gratitude visit is done in person, it can also be deeply personal. While it may leave a person feeling vulnerable, it also presents the opportunity for deeper social connections. Gratitude has also been shown to raise happiness levels of the recipient.
In addition to this, studies have also shown the benefits of gratitude touch many other areas of life.
Tips For a Gratitude Visit
Here are a few suggestions when writing your letter and doing your gratitude visit. Some of them from Seligman himself. Remember, they are only suggestions.
1. The letter shouldn’t be longer than one page. Seligman suggests it be somewhere around 300 words.
2. Be specific. Try to think of any particular thoughts or feelings you’ve had but never expressed to the individual verbally. Explain how they have made an impact on your life.
3. Make it a surprise. Be vague about why you want to meet up. It will make the visit special and unique.
4. Read the letter out loud to them. It will add a personal touch and add to the sincerity.
5. You could laminate or frame the letter as a gift. A token or memento that the recipient can keep as a visual reminder of your gratitude.
6. You may want to plan time for catching up after reading the letter. Gratitude can be a natural conversation starter into deeper topics or areas of life.
7. Reflect or Reminisce after the visit to cement the memory of gratitude, or for an extra boost of happiness afterwards.
8. If you’re unable to do the visit in person, another option might be to use skype, google hangouts, facetime, or other video app.
Gratitude visits are just one in many ways that you can practice gratitude. While a boost in happiness is a great reason to practice gratitude, it’s definitely not the only reason you should.
If you’re looking for a way to practice gratitude, however, give the gratitude visit a try. You just might find yourself (and the recipient) happier for it.