Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
We hear often about the benefits of building a resilient physical immune system, but what of our emotional and spiritual wellbeing?
Just like exercise bolsters our physical immune system, spiritual exercise can bolster our psychological immune system. And just as getting enough daily vitamins supports our physical being, engaging in daily spiritual practices supports our spiritual being and overall wellbeing. Think of these practices as your “spiritual vitamins.” Let’s delve into one of my favorite and most effective ways to boost our spirit’s immunity:
Pay a Gratitude Visit (Even a Virtual One)
Most of us are familiar with the power of gratitude and have heard about the importance of writing down at least five things that we are grateful for every day. If you aren’t already tried doing this, I invite you to make this a consistent practice in your daily routine and experience the many proven benefits that occur as a result.
I learned about one of the most profound gratitude exercises we can do from psychologist Martin Seligman, founder of “positive psychology,” the study of states like happiness, strength of character, and optimism. This practice can not only boost our own happiness levels but those of another person as well. How cool is that?
In a 2004 TED Talk titled “The New Era of Positive Psychology,” Seligman spoke about the concept of a “gratitude visit.” He invited the audience to close their eyes and think of someone who did something “enormously important” that changed their lives for the better and whom they’d “never properly thanked.”
Seligman said, “The person has to be alive…
“Once you’ve thought of the person you would like to thank, your assignment is to write a three hundred–word testimonial to that person, and then call them on the phone, ask if you can visit, and don’t tell them why. Show up at their door, and read the testimonial.”
“Everyone weeps when this happens,” he said. “And what happens is, when psychologists test people one week later, a month later, and three months later, they’re both happier and less depressed.”
I did this exercise, and my friend Vanessa immediately came to mind. I’d only known her a short time, but she’d had a profound impact on me. This is the letter that I wrote:
Thank you for your extreme bravery. Your courage inspires me in ways I cannot even explain, but let me try. I oftentimes feel like an alien here on Earth as a status quo disrupter. As an unmarried woman with no children, I don’t fit into societal standards. I sometimes feel alone in my decisions, like people don’t get me, or I guess it’s that people don’t take the time to truly SEE me. I think this is an epidemic in our world, and it saddens me deeply.
But you, Vanessa, you SEE me. And I SEE you. And as psychologist Susan David would say, “By seeing me, you bring me into existence.”
Thank you for this beautiful gift. It is priceless, and no one can ever take it away from me.
I think of the sheer bravery it takes for anyone to show up and be themselves authentically and unapologetically in the world today. I think what a miracle it is to love, cherish, and embrace ourselves in a society that tells us daily how we don’t quite add up to enough, especially as women. When I think of the additional strength, courage, and integrity it takes for you, a transgender woman, to show up with so much love, joy, and confidence and be able to offer that pure love, joy, and confidence so freely to others, I am brought to my knees in prayer that you came into my life to show me how to love more fully and completely. Your heart is so stunning, and your kindness touches my heart deeply. Your mere presence makes me feel so loved, acknowledged, understood. I feel less alone because of you.
One of my favorite things to do is compliment others. It lights me up, and I see how much it lights others up as well. Yet, I rarely receive the genuine compliments I so freely give. After we completed our weeklong coaching intensive at Columbia University, you sent me a text message that I will cherish forever. In it, you said: “Your beauty outside is striking but the depth of your love for others as they are, as they authentically need to be, shows the most beautiful person I have had the privilege to call a friend in a very long time. Stay in your beauty with honor, pride, and dignity.”
Thank you for this gorgeous message, Vanessa, but more importantly, thank you for loving me as I am and as I authentically need to be. I love you.
When I read this letter to Vanessa, I cried, she cried, and she said, “I will cherish that forever. Those words will stay with me for the rest of my life. Thank you.” We spoke for about an hour after I read the letter, and while I can’t tell you the exact words we shared with one another, I can tell you that the sentiment was so sacred, so deep, so touching, that I almost had an out-of-body experience.
It’s so rare that we (meaning everybody) share such honest, heartfelt expressions of love and appreciation that it almost felt like a lot to take in.
Emotions, even extremely pleasant ones, can feel overwhelming and exhausting. But the gifts contained in the expression of our emotions (from one heart to another) are invaluable, and my greatest wish is that each of us commit to these honest, soulful expressions much more often. I’m no doctor, but I think it’s necessary for optimal health.
You may also enjoy reading 10 Ways To Practice Gratitude To Live a Happier Life by Aimee Laurence