Letters of Gratitude

As we experience autumn’s decrease in temperature and daylight hours, we receive the benefit from the new season’s harvest and bountiful produce. It is as if all the sun’s warmth has been transformed into a rich sustenance. Autumn also brings a sense of remembrance and appreciation culminating with a day of Thanksgiving in late November.

With these reflections in mind, we propose an activity of writing letters of gratitude to someone who has touched your life, brought you joy, laughter, or understanding. While we emphasize the notion of a letter as a gift to someone else, there is also a benefit of expressive writing to the author of the letter. Research suggests that writing letters of thankfulness to someone evokes positive effects of well-being, such as more happiness and life-satisfaction. Researcher Steven Toepfer suggests that “We have this powerful resource we’re carrying with us, but we need to tap into it in order to let it work for us.”

With known benefits for both writer and receiver, perhaps we have forgotten how to make space available in our lives to practice this time-honored form of communication. Please turn the page for some suggestions for reflection, observation, and introspection to prompt your writing.

Suggestions for composing a letter of gratitude:

• Who are you thinking about? What thoughts are dancing in your mind, that you might say aloud if you were together right now?

• Sometimes a seemingly insignificant passage of time or conversation with someone holds a place in your thoughts. That moment or series of moments can be recalled in words that show how the shared time has impacted your perspective or even framed your self-image.

• A walk in the fall leaves, with blustery breezes can awaken your memory of past autumns and people who you recall each year. Carry a little note pad and pen as you walk, ready to capture a word or phrase to get you started when you can sit to write your message.

• With your intended reader in mind, sit at a window or viewpoint, with no sound, breathe deeply, and note your impressions. From time to time, close your eyes and allow ideas to emerge.

• Anticipate the physical writing of your letter, how it will be folded and sealed, the home to where it will arrive, the image of someone at their mailbox, surprised by finding a personal letter, humbled to receive this recognition from you.

• Additional ideas can be found on our website, www.letterstrellis.com . Look for the one-page writing activities, such as “Post it Forward”, “Handwriting Improv”, and “Feeding Your (Inner) Writer”.

“What I found the most amazing is how I’ve been able to connect with people over this concept of gratitude. It’s been said that gratitude is the ‘remind’ and ‘bind’ emotion that reminds you who have done things for you. It binds them, connects them to you and you to them.”

Quote from Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., University of California, Davis https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good

[October 2020]