One of the most important parts of self-care is cultivating connection. This includes cultivating a connection with ourselves and with others. When it comes to others, it’s important to surround ourselves with people who genuinely care about us, and to focus on building healthy relationships with those individuals.
Think of the people in your life who’ve been tremendously supportive. The people who’ve had some sort of positive influence on you. The person you can call to spill a secret to. The person you can call with good or bad news. The person who’s taught you an important lesson. Who’s held your hand during a rough time. Who always makes you laugh. Who truly listens. Who helped you in some sweet or compassionate way. Who accepts you for you.
This week thank them in a special way.
In her book Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time, psychologist and Psych Central contributor Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D, features a great exercise for thanking the important people in our lives. It’s called a gratitude visit. Hartwell-Walker recalls practicing the exercise in workshops in the 1970s. It also appears in Martin Seligman’s book Flourish.
This is what the exercise entails:
1. Think of a person you feel gratitude toward for something he or she did in the past.
2. Write a letter to that person describing what he or she did and how it made your life richer or better in some way.
3. Contact the person and arrange to meet face-to-face if you can. If you can’t, phone contact is fine. Read your letter to that person.
If you can’t talk to the person, or if they’ve passed away, Hartwell-Walker suggests writing your letter anyway. “Relationships don’t end with death or distance. They live on in our hearts and in our memories,” she writes.
After writing your letter, place two chairs facing each other. Sit in one chair, and imagine the person sitting in the chair across from you. “Really take the time to imagine the experience of being with the person. Then read your letter out loud,” Hartwell-Walker writes. For either visit, journal about your thoughts and feelings.
Consider asking yourself these questions: How does it feel to write a letter of gratitude? How did the visit go? What thoughts are swirling in my mind? What sensations am I feeling in my body? What does this relationship mean to me? How can I cultivate an even stronger connection (whether the individual is alive or not)?
Our connection to others is a powerful part of self-care. It’s a powerful part of our lives. Whether you try the above exercise or not, consider the other ways you can foster your connection to someone special in your life.