Option 1. Gratitude Practice and Gratitude Visit

If you want to improve your general sense of happiness, this is for you. As part of this project you will engage in a regular gratitude practice that has been proven in clinical studies to increase happiness and decrease depressive symptoms for six months beyond one’s engagement with it. You will also prepare for and realize a gratitude visit, an exercise that is very well researched and to-date proven to be the single most effective intervention in increasing happiness.

Note: For students who are creating their own projects, please use the guidelines below and  modify them for your particular project. Follow the due dates for deliverables so that you remain on the same schedule as your fellow team members.


We expect you to spend at least 1 ¾ hours per week on this experiential project beginning the week of March 19.  You will spend three 15-minute sessions per week writing “morning pages” (as described by Cameron in the reading cited below.) The remaining hour will be spend drafting your gratitude letter and planning your visit.

Morning Pages

  • Develop a regular writing practice of writing “morning pages” (see Cameron’s Basic Tools) at least three times a week for 15 minutes.  In each installment of the morning pages note three things you are grateful for and why.  Note: the morning pages are for you alone.
  • In your synthesizing blog, on march 26 and April 9, include a paragraph reflecting on your experience with the morning pages and your progress on your gratitude letter.  What events or things spark feelings of gratitude in you and why?  What does this tell you about your personal values and ultimate concerns?

Gratitude letter and visit

  • Read description of the gratitude visit (see below.)
  • On April 1, in your synthesizing blog, post a rough draft of your gratitude letter and succinct description of your plan for the gratitude visit: Who will you honor with a gratitude letter and visit?  Why did you pick this person? When do you plan to deliver your letter? What arrangements do you need to make (phone calls, train ticket, etc.) by what dates? End your post with specific questions to invite feedback from your team mates.
  • By April 17, you will need to have completed your gratitude visit.
  • By April 17, posts your finished letter and a one page reflection on your experience.


Aside from increasing your happiness, the point of this project is to help sharpen your awareness of self and others and your reflective writing skills.  You will be graded based on those criteria.  We will not be evaluating you on the worth of your “product” e.g level of gratitude or happiness.  Instead, we will look for sincere engagement and honest effort as well as quality of reflective writing about your experience. In evaluating your experiential project we will look for evidence and quality of engagement w/

  • Regular practice of morning pages (3 per week/ 15 min per session)
  • Weekly synthesizing post include reflection on experience and on progress on project
  • Specific feedback to teammates’ synthesizing posts including probing, engaging questions.
  • Evidence of incorporating feedback from teammates
  • Quality 1-page reflective essay – we are looking for depth and specificity of reflection and quality of writing.


Martin Seligman, Psychologist and author of Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, describes an exercise that is very well researched and to-date proven to be the single most effective intervention in increasing happiness. Seligman himself uses the exercise with his students at the University of Pennsylvania, and we invite you to experience its benefits for yourself. Here are Seligman’s instructions:

  • Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with new-found romantic love, or with the possibility of a future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; this may take several weeks.
  • Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression, and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you.

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