COMMENTARY

A Healthy Attitude of Gratitude

By Lynette M. Smith

Negative emotions upset your body. They tie your stomach in a knot. They take your brain for a ride on the worry cycle. They release adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream, which is fine for coping with a short-term emergency but hard on your immune system. Thus, such bodily wear and tear could shorten your life.

At the other extreme, positive emotions generate high-frequency “good vibrations” and release endorphins into your body, leaving you in a state of joy and peace. It’s reasonable to say that people who are in a good mood most of the time tend to live longer.

Each year, as the Thanksgiving holiday draws nearer, people start reflecting not only on the blessings in their own lives, but also on the lack of blessings in the lives of those less fortunate. Consequently, charitable donations and efforts escalate.

People also start thinking about how grateful they are to those who have made a positive difference in their lives. Remember the last time someone told you (or texted or tweeted or emailed you) how much they appreciated you for something significant in their life? For a brief time, it made you feel validated and appreciated. And you felt good all over.

Suppose that individual had instead expressed gratitude in tangible written form—something you could hold in your hand—like a heartfelt letter of appreciation? You could have read it whenever you wanted; and every time you did, you’d feel just as great as the first time. That treasured letter was transformed into a priceless, ongoing gift!

When the magnitude of your gratitude is bigger than a thank-you note, a heartfelt letter is indeed the perfect gift. Write to someone who’s made a big difference in your life: You’ll feel enthusiastic, encouraged, and appreciative as you write and present your letter, and your recipient will feel gratified to know that he or she has had a positive impact on you. And you’ll each attract other positive people and situations, so the quality of your lives will improve as well.

Follow these three easy steps to write a letter of appreciation:

  1. Relate a shared, treasured memory.
  2. Describe the important positive qualities you most admire about the other person, perhaps providing examples of how you’ve seen those traits in action.
  3. Tell how that person has made a positive difference in your life: the values you have learned, or the exemplary behavior you’re striving to emulate, for example.

End your letter with a simple statement of thanks, and then sign your name.

If you plan to frame your letter, buy the frame first so you’ll know how much space is available for writing. Otherwise, your letter can be any reasonable length.

Handwrite or hand-print your letter if you wish; or compose it on a computer, as long as you use an easy-to-read font and hand-sign your letter in cursive or printed lettering.

Enhancements add dimension to the writing experience. Start or end your letter with an appropriate famous quotation. Enclose something that represents your creative side: a longer original poem, an original musical composition and/or recording, a photo of the two of you, a photo collage, drawing, cartoon, painting, sculpture, carving, artistic photo, or handicraft. You can even include a video or audio recording of yourself reading the letter aloud.

As you consider how and when to present your letter, let the unique situation guide you. Reading and presenting in person is preferred. If the contents of your letter are suitable for a general audience, then a public presentation is even better.

Perhaps you and your letter’s recipient will be so inspired that you will each write more letters, year round, for all occasions, enjoying good health and long life through better relationships.

Lynette M. Smith is a professional freelance copyeditor and author of the comprehensive reference book, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special. Her book and ebook are listed at all major online retailers; signed or inscribed books are available from www.GoodWaysToWrite.com.

 

 


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