by Lynda Wallace
At this time of year, nearly all of us spend extra time with family and friends. And one of the best things we can do to really enjoy our time with them is to actively appreciate the ways in which they enrich our lives. So let’s turn our attention to appreciating the people who help make our lives good.
Here’s a powerful way to do just that—and bring more joy into the season—with two questions to consider and one small step to take.
Question 1: Who are some of the people who add joy, laughter, or love to your life, or who you can count on to be there when you need them?
Go ahead and list the first people who come to mind. Then see if you can think of one or two people you might not think of every day, but who have made a difference in your life.
Question 2: What are some of the specific ways they have made your life better this year?
If your answer is as broad as “they’re just all-around great kids” or “she’s the best friend in the world,” take a minute to go another layer down by thinking of one concrete way in which they enrich your life, or perhaps a specific thing you do together that brings you joy. You might even be able to think of ways they make your life better without their even knowing it.
Now take a moment to feel your appreciation for these people and their presence in your life. Really experience your gratitude. And then, if you want to, you can stop there. Just reflecting on the ways that other people enrich our life has been proven to give our mood a lift—something we can all use, especially during such a busy time of year.
But the impact of these reflections can be fleeting—unless we take one more small step. Taking this additional step has been shown to substantially increase both the positive impact of the reflection and how long the impact lasts. People who do this one additional thing continue to significantly feel better six months later—six months!—so it’s really worth doing.
Here’s the one small step: Let them know.
Write a note, send an e-mail, pick up the phone, find a minute after dinner, and tell the people who make your life so good exactly how they do it.
Here’s the key. This isn’t a “Thanks for being such a supportive colleague” or “I’m glad we’re sisters” type of communication. This is about the concrete, specific ways these good people have made your life better this year.
This type of heartfelt expression of appreciation for the specific, concrete ways that people enrich our lives can have all sorts of wonderful effects. As documented by Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Flourish, it can lead to speechless surprise, great conversations, deeper relationships, release of old resentments, and a lot more of the laughter, joy, and love that we were so grateful for in the first place.
So give it a try. And, if your experience is anything like mine, I’ll bet you find yourself doing it again and again.
Find out more about WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching course with Lynda Wallace, beginning March 30, 2016.
Lynda Wallace is a highly sought-after coach who meets with local clients in her sunny office in Montclair, New Jersey, and with clients from around the world by phone and video. She wrote the best-selling book A Short Course in Happiness, and teaches Positive Psychology Coaching courses for WholeBeing Institute. Lynda spent 20 years as a senior executive at Johnson & Johnson and holds an MBA from the Wharton School.