PRACTICE: Gratitude Journal
Because as Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us: "appreciation begets abundance".
After being on an emotional rollercoaster for most of 2016 and 2017, I finally got around to working with a therapist in September of 2017. My homework assignment after the first session was to start keeping a gratitude journal. The instructions were simple: every day take a minute or two to write down anything that comes to mind for which I am grateful. The purpose being to start truly seeing all that I already have. My therapist told me there had been studies that proved a daily gratitude practice rewires our brains. That made it seem worth it to me.
So, I went home and picked out a small notebook from my on-hand collection of blank notebooks (do you, too, buy notebooks but save them for the “right” thing?) and started that night. My first entry:
2. clean drinking water
3. plants in my home
Since then I have maintained this practice daily, and I’m currently on my twelfth little gratitude journal. Why?
Because it works.
In the summer of 2018, alone in my car en route to Cape Cod for vacation, it hit me. I was moving at a crawl in traffic down the Mass Pike towards my exit onto 495 South, when I suddenly realized that I was b l i s s e d out.
I was grateful to be driving myself to vacation, in my own car, on the highway. I was grateful I had all the tools I needed to get to my destination. I was grateful to be in traffic and to have a box of Annie’s Snack Mix next to me with cool Albany tap water to wash it down. I was grateful I had music I love to listen to. I was grateful to have time to take a vacation, time away from work. I was grateful for all the people around me in their cars, driving home from work. And I was grateful to be driving towards people I love with my whole heart. As I realized my bliss I began laughing while crying tears of joy, and then shouting to myself: “I did it!”. I rewired my brain.
By exercising my gratitude muscle every night before going to bed I have come to more fully appreciate all the little, ordinary things that make life so rich. Some days I can only muster up one or two things that feel worth recording. Other nights, when I’m surging with that same bliss, I easily fill two pages. And others I find myself writing out a short, but very nuanced list, reflecting the depth I experienced that day.
There’s a saying that “what you appreciate appreciates”. I can tell you from experience this is true. The more I see and acknowledge all that makes my life so full, the fuller my life becomes. By appreciating what I already love, I draw in more and more of it.
Today is Thanksgiving.
In the United States of America this is a day where we are all called to practice gratitude. We gather with family and friends. We plan, shop, prepare, and cook. We sit down in our homes and shared spaces, shoulder to shoulder, to enjoy a meal. To give thanks as individuals and as a nation for so much abundance. (And yes, the nuances of this holiday are textured and complex— can we be grateful for the nuances, too?) I can’t think of a better day to start a gratitude practice of your own, can you?
In the comments tell me what you would put on your gratitude list today.
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