Searching for happiness? Write a letter of gratitude
Expressing gratitude in written form comes with long-lasting health benefits for sender and receiver. When Doris Gruszka recently received such a letter it was unexpected, not simply for the written note but for the moment in time it represented....
Expressing gratitude in written form comes with long-lasting health benefits for sender and receiver.
When Doris Gruszka recently received such a letter it was unexpected, not simply for the written note but for the moment in time it represented.
The letter came from a now grown former high school friend of her daughter's who is now 40. Gruszka was there for her daughter's friend after she had an argument at a home stressed by a family illness. Gruszka, Pillager, said it was remarkable and spoke to the small things people do and never realize the lasting impression they make in another's life.
"All these years later and she still remembered-that's what made the note so special," Gruszka said.
The letter thanked Gruszka for her patient guidance. The high school student now a mother herself realized the accomplishments of surviving the heartaches and growing pains while trying to nurture children.
"You do these things without thinking of how they will affect others, but are just being yourself in the situation," Gruszka said of simply trying to do the best one can. "It was like a ray of sunshine in my day, not for what I did but that she felt this way about me after so much time had past."
Gruszka said she was glad her daughter still has such a beautiful friend from high school and college days to be her support system also.
The power of gratitude was given scientific evidence during a September presentation on the the Science of Resilience by Bryan Sexton, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and director of the Duke Patient Safety Center at Duke University Health System in North Carolina.
Sexton provided a full room gathered recently at Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter with tools to strengthen their resilience. The event was sponsored by Crow Wing Energized and Essentia Health St. Joseph's Foundation.
The results of scientific studies point to a path for greater happiness and longevity, as well as ways to handle the stresses of life at home and on the job through resilience. Sexton said studies show it's not the amount of money people spend on themselves that makes a dent in their happiness, but there is a shift when they focus on others.
In the study, people who wrote the letter to someone either living or dead who impacted their lives in a positive way, were significantly happier and less depressed even five to six weeks later. Picking up the phone to read the letter to the individual, increased happiness even more.
Emotions are powerful, Sexton said, noting one such letter sent to a teacher for instance can be enough to turn around their own impression of whether their career has been successful. Doing this once a month has the power to make a difference in lives, Sexton said, noting it's typically easy to find eight people in one's life that deserve a letter of gratitude.
Little behaviors make a long-lasting impact on well-being, Sexton said.
Gruszka agreed. She said the elevated feeling stayed with her. And the form of the gratitude - not in a text or a social media post - also made a difference. Each time she picks up the letter, the feeling returns.
"So I can look at it again and again," Gruszka said. "The written word is very treasured. You can read it again and again. You feel the same thing over again. It stayed with me."
Gruszka said she suspects the same thing will happen when her daughter comes across that letter one day in the future after she is gone.
"Because it will be in that drawer with my other treasures."
RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .