Friday, March 04, 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/01/2004 | Give thanks, get a dividend

Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/01/2004 | Give thanks, get a dividend

Thank you. Could those words be the key to happiness?

Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading figure in the positive psychology movement, has been exploring what makes and keeps people happy.

Fond memories, a sense of engagement, absorption and purpose in the present, and hope and optimism for the future are part of it, he says. But an essential ingredient is gratitude.

"Gratitude amplifies good memories of the past," says Seligman, whose most recent book is Authentic Happiness (Free Press, $14). "The more positive memories you have, and the stronger they are, the better your chances of achieving contentment, serenity and satisfaction."

If we Americans can't get no satisfaction, it may be because we're insufficiently thankful. "We are a society of ungrateful wretches," Seligman says. "Our society lacks gratitude rituals, formal ways of expressing thanks to those who have done well by us."

To remedy that, he prescribes the "gratitude visit."

Think of someone who has shown you kindness and made a difference in your life. Now write a "gratitude letter" to that person. Make it concrete and specific. Then call that person and ask to visit. Don't say why (surprise is essential). Read the testimonial aloud, slowly, making eye contact.

"It's important that it's not all in your head," Seligman says, "that you do this face-to-face with another human being."

The gratitude visit grew out of a course Seligman taught Penn undergrads in fall 2001. Senior Marisa Lascher suggested holding a "gratitude night": Class members would


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