As we know all too well, it’s rare that the world ever slows down. This has only become protracted by technology, enabling people to reach you in an instant and making it difficult to tune out from constant communication and tune in to ourselves. Around the holidays, though, there’s an opportunity to take a moment and acknowledge what we have to be grateful for. If you’re looking for inspiration, John Kralik might be able to give you some. In his book “A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life,” Kralik chronicles his journey from rock-bottom to renewal and how practicing gratitude was the driving force behind that change.
At the time Kralik embarked on this journey, he was broke, going through a divorce, living in a stifling apartment, and not feeling thankful for much. As he went for a hike on New Year’s Day, Kralik says he had an epiphany: “Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want,” he says. Inspired, Kralik resolved to write 365 thank you letters over the next year to focus on what he did have rather than what he didn’t have.
Getting started wasn’t easy, and as Kralik describes, he almost forgot about the whole resolution a few days after his hike. Then he thought of the gifts he’d received that Christmas. He started by sending his son, whom he’d lost contact with, a thank-you letter for the coffee maker he’d given him. John describes the message the gift conveyed beyond material worth: His son knew him and knew how much he enjoyed coffee. The day after he received the letter, Kralik’s son asked him to lunch, and during it, repaid a loan his dad had given him. In sending more thank-you letters for gifts he’d received, Kralik began to notice a shift in the meaning of the gifts, binding them to his relationship with the giver. “Without the practice of writing notes, by February, one tie has blended into another, and who can remember who gave you the black one with the white dots?” Kralik writes.
Kralik says throughout the 365 thank-you notes, positive interactions spurred him on. “I became grateful as I noticed the good things in my life,” Kralik says, “even when nothing external happened to me.”
Through the journey of writing the thank-you notes, Kralik found a renewed sense of purpose and motivation in his life, rekindling relationships with people who had always been there for him, but who he just hadn’t been in the right mindset to notice. He emphasizes that sitting down to hand-write the thank-you letters was an important part of thinking about what he was grateful for. “It has unique benefits,” Kralik says. “I got that out of just writing the person’s address and thinking about where that person physically lives and the effort it took them to send me a gift.”
When you’re looking for inspiration (or a gift for someone) to start your own gratitude practice, turn to “A Simple Act of Gratitude” for your holiday reading.
Read more in our December 2018 newsletter.