the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

Upon turning 50, the author, Nancy Davis Kho, decides to write 50 letters of gratitude during the year.  Why?  Well, for one thing practicing thankfulness is good for you.  Here are some of the benefits studies have shown:

  • Gratitude “rewires” the brain to reward us for the positive perceptions we have of those around us;  this begets more gratitude and a feeling of “elevation” that makes us want to become morally better ourselves!
  • Negative emotions like fear or anger trigger increased heart rate, accelerated breathing and muscle tension == positive emotions like gratitude help us relax, feel safe and connected with others
  • There are many physical health benefits — better sleep, more energy, improved control of asthma

She also felt that the age of 50 (half-way or more through life), was a good time to look back and reflect on those who helped to mold you into the person you have become.

Nancy boils her letter-writing project down to three steps:  see, say, savorSee the people, places and things that have made your life meaningful.  Say something to acknowledge that impact.  Keep copies of all the letters to write so that you can reread them and savor the generosity that supports and surrounds you.

She suggests making a list of those you want to write to, and of course that list will include family, friends, and probably mentors– people you love and admire.  However, she has a thought-provoking idea — you may want to include people who have taught you hard lessons — the difficult relative, the ex-boyfriend, the unreasonable boss.  Even those people have taught you something you needed to know.  Even those people may call up some good memories, or have some good qualities to commemorate.  You may even choose to write a letter to certain places, passions or hobbies that have influenced you over the years!

Another point — you do not need to mail the letters, or at least all the letters.  There may be people you wish to thank who have died, or that you cannot locate.  It may seem inappropriate to contact some.  The personal benefits of acknowledging your gratitude will still accrue.

The book guides the reader through writing the letters.  For example, it is suggested that you begin with a brief explanation of why you are writing, so the person doesn’t feel “weirded out” or stalked by the letter.  Write to older people first — we never know how much time is left to express our thanks to them.  Also, keep the letters about the same length (Nancy chose one page) so that you don’t go overboard with a thousand “do you remember the time” examples.  When writing to several people in the same family –for example your siblings, or your children, you may want to send them all at the same time to avoid the appearance of favoritism.  Some of Nancy’s letters are included as well.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a Christian book, but the author is a Christian (Episcopalian) as one of the letters she writes is to her minister.  Gratitude is certainly a Christian quality, and one we should all cultivate.  How about writing a thank you letter to Jesus?  Anyway, I liked the idea and may try it. What about you, dear reader?  If you decide to embark on a thank-you project, let the Lutheran Ladies know how it goes.

For more on gratitude see these posts:

Practicing Gratitude

Giving Thanks for God’s Mercy

Are You Giving Thanks for the Right Things?

Spend Time Being Positive

A while back Leslie posted about how we should spend some time remembering our past, in order to learn from it, but we should be careful not to dwell on the past–especially past pain, slights and hurts.  Dwelling on negative experiences can cause anger, depression, shame, anxiety and other unhealthy emotions.  In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul tells us what we should dwell on:

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Have you heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out”?  The original meaning is if we put inaccurate data into our computer, or equation, the answer we get will be equally wrong.  In the same way, if we spend time feeding our minds with regret over our own past mistakes, annoyance with the bad behavior of others, and anger about the things we don’t have that we deserve, what we get out of life will be equally unpleasant.  Nobody will enjoy being around us, and we’ll be unable to recognize the gifts that we have. On the other hand, if we focus on the positive aspects of our own personality, if we build others up instead of tearing them down, and are thankful for the many blessings we receive daily, we’ll soon develop an “attitude of gratitude.” We’ll appreciate ourselves and others and be thankful to God. Wouldn’t you rather focus on the positive?

 

Practicing Gratitude

I told you in a previous blog that being grateful is good for your physical, emotional and mental health.  Recently I ran across an article shared on Linked In that gave a 23 minute morning exercise that in 21 days would lead you to have a more positive attitude and outlook.  It could easily be adapted to have a Christian focus.  A way to practice gratitude.

  1. Spend 15 minutes exercising.  My addition … if you walk around your neighborhood, give thanks for the beauty of God’s creation.  Give thanks that you are able to walk, run, bend, reach, whatever type of exercise you choose.
  2. Spend 2 minutes meditating.  I suggest turning this part into what is called a “breath prayer.”  Breath slowly in and out, paying attention to your breathing and repeat a prayerful phrase — Lord have mercy, Jesus, my shepherd, or something similar.
  3. Think back over the preceding 24 hours and journal about a positive experience you had.  Give thanks for that. (3 minutes)
  4. Write a quick text, email or note encouraging someone. (3 min).

I haven’t been successful yet at doing this consistently, but I’m going to keep trying.  What about you?  Can you try this morning “gratitude” routine and let us know if it helps you develop an “attitude of gratitude”?