Getting More from Gratitude: A Simple Happiness Tip
Whenever someone sends you a nice email or note giving you praise, save it. You can snap a picture and put it in a folder, or copy+paste into a document. I save mine in a notebook in the app Evernote. Then, whenever you want to pick up your mood, you can review the nice things people have said to you. You might accidentally stumble across these positive acknowledgements at any time.
As we have looked at many times, happiness is not a journey one makes alone. So instead of just looking at the praise and feeling good about yourself, think about the person who sent it. Imagine their face, and the care or tension in your relationship. Check in with exactly what you are feeling, physically and emotionally, not just the thoughts you have.
This should amplify the feelings while also helping bypass the part of you that says, “I don’t deserve to focus all of my energy on myself!” It is also a way of remembering and recognizing that we are all wholes who are part of larger systems of wholes.
Maximize the Effect with Specificity
For maximum effect, focus on the type of praise that is very specific about something you have done and how it impacted the other person. When affirmation is grounded in the details of reality it is much easier to feel and much harder to deny.
For example, “Jordan, you are really helping people.” is so general that it (1) makes it easy to find counter-examples and (2) does not tell me how the other person actually felt. Maybe my helpfulness pissed them off. Instead, if it says, “The article you wrote about taking it slow helped me find patience in the midst of some struggles I’m going through,” I can connect deeply with how I specifically impacted the person.
If you did not receive this kind of specificity, I encourage you to ask for it.
Take it to The Next Level
At a deep, metaphysical level, I believe that giving and receiving are essentially the same. Most people would agree that emotions are contagious; sharing usually amplifies it. So if you want to feel even more, reach back out to the person whose praise you saved and tell them how it impacted you, even years later.
For example: “Hey [name], I just re-read the note you sent three years ago thanking me for my article, and it just provided me encouragement when I was lacking inspiration. You are a supportive friend, and I’m grateful for our friendship.”