Positive Psychology Interventions: The Gratitude visit
Positive Psychology research shows that Gratitude correlates strongly with positive emotions, better interpersonal relationships, and wellbeing (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). As such, there are many positive psychology interventions specifically designed to develop the strength of Gratitude. This worksheet will look at one of the most commonly used Gratitude development exercises, The Gratitude Visit (Seligman et al., 2005).
In essence, the Gratitude visit is straightforward to use, but personal or cultural norms may make the concept of directly expressing Gratitude to someone feel alien and even uncomfortable. How often do we actually take the time to visit some-one and describe how their actions have positively impacted our lives?
Why the gratitude visit works
Several models in psychology illustrate how developing strengths such as Gratitude leads to increased psychological wellbeing. Frederickson (2004) developed the broaden and build model, suggesting that increasing access to positive emotions extends an individual’s range of cognition and behaviour. This is because they are more likely to move in the direction of new experiences, generating more positive affect, leading to increased access to positive experiences. Research also suggests that the development of positive emotion and wellbeing leads to a reservoir of affect, which buffers against adverse life events and increases resilience.
We could compare the Broaden and Build theory to models of emotional distress like Anxiety or Depression. Cognitive theories of Anxiety, for instance, suggest that it focuses attention, cognition and behaviour around real or perceived threats. The brain and body narrowly focus upon the danger, meaning that anxiety sufferers can struggle to move beyond it, worrying about it and limiting their range of activity to avoid it. In a coaching relationship, in which we are typically working with people in non-clinical contexts, Anxiety, although not necessarily debilitating, can get in the way of a client moving in their desired direction.
Therefore, by deliberately stimulating positive emotions such as Gratitude, we can promote cognitive and behavioural responses beyond those dictated by limiting negative affect. Gratitude development thus frees us up to move in the direction of our desired goals and values.
How to do the gratitude visit
- Think of someone to whom you are very grateful but have never had the chance to thank properly.
- Write a letter describing the Gratitude you felt when they did what they did. Include detail about the act (or acts), their effects on your life, and what this meant to you.
- Arrange a visit with the person, either face to face, online or by phone, and read the letter to them.
- Notice and savour your experience.