Gratitude is about feeling love and appreciation for ourselves and others. As poet Pablo Neruda says, “You can pick all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.” Many of us take our lives for granted and do not express gratitude often enough. In addition to keeping a gratitude journal, it’s important to permeate each day with gratitude and marvel at the life we are living. This is one of the many reasons that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. More often than not, I think gratitude should be a built-in part of our everyday life and journey. Expressing it is like keeping a tuning fork alive and vibrating the joy throughout the universe.
A gratitude journal or notebook is a place where you write down all those things for which you are grateful. It is a place to focus on all that is positive in your life. Because Thanksgiving is in November, it seems to be a good month to begin the practice of gratitude journaling. This offers a good opportunity to be mindful and alert to what we are grateful for and things we might otherwise take for granted. The exercise of gratitude journaling gives us a chance to slow down and pay attention to all the good in our lives. Writing also helps organize our thoughts and can facilitate transformation.
If you are a regular journal keeper, you can express gratitude in your journal, but sometimes it is better to have a separate journal just for gratitude. There are many benefits to expressing thanks; it fosters appreciation of and perspective on your life while positively affecting your physical, psychological and emotional well-being. It also may offer opportunities for growth and transformation. Recent studies show that those who are most grateful are also less prone to depression.
When you begin gratitude journaling, you might want to start by keeping your journal on your bedside table. Expressing gratitude in those quiet moments first thing in the morning, or before you retire at night can be the best times for gratitude journaling.
Like in most types of journaling, there are no rules, but for those of you who prefer some instructions, here are suggestions for how to begin:
Day 1 - Make a list of 3-10 people who you are grateful for. They can be alive or deceased. Beside each name, write a few sentences on why you are grateful for having them in your life or having had them in your life.
Day 2 - Make a list of 3-10 events or experiences for which you are grateful. If you feel the need, you can go all the way back to your childhood. Write a few sentences on what the experience meant to you and why you are grateful.
Day 3 - Make a list of 3-10 items you are grateful for—items you would not want to give up. Write why the items are important to you and how they came into your life.
Day 4 - Make a list of 3-10 books which greatly influenced you and why you are thankful they were written.
Day 5 - Make a list of 3-10 trips or journeys you took for which you are grateful and why.
Day 6 - Make a list of 3-10 personality characteristics you have that you are thankful for and why.
Day 7 - Make a list of 3-10 skills you have for which you are grateful and why.
Thanksgiving Exercise: Before or after your Thanksgiving meal, choose a chair as an “Appreciation Chair.” Each person takes a turn sitting in it. While they are in the chair, each guest has a chance to tell that person why they are appreciated. This is an opportunity to express gratitude or kindness we feel for another person. Happy Thanksgiving!