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Happiness is just a letter away

March 8, 2011

What Experts Say…


“Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks …Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one page. Take your time composing this…Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice … Read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression, and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.” (Psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, p. 74)


In Other Words…


Research shows that, when we focus on gratitude, we experience a spurt of happiness. When we look back across our life stories, we can find the people who made enduring differences. We can write our thanks. Even if they are deceased, we can write a letter of gratitude and simply read it aloud or share it with one of their descendants. If they are alive, we can meet with them, share our gratitude, and thereby enrich two lives.


How This Applies to You…


As you review your life, you may come up with several people who have made big differences for you. Make a list. You might choose to write one letter a week—or month—taking time to savor the gratitude that comes from thanking others. Make your encounter with those people special. You might meet them at a coffee shop in the old neighborhood. Or maybe you will visit them in their home. Take a picture of the two of you together. After the experience, write about what you felt.


To Find Out More…

For an excellent (and free!) program on improving your personal well-being, check out The Personal Journey or Managing Stress at


For more in-depth reading we recommend Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman or Positivity by Barbara L. Fredrickson.

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