“It is not happiness that brings us gratitude, it is gratitude that brings us happiness.”
Earlier this week, I was having coffee with a friend when an alarm went off on my phone at 9 am playing a whimsical melody. Confused, my friend asked what it was. I explained it was the reminder to write in my gratitude journal. This sparked a conversation about what a gratitude journal was and then the question, “what if you don’t have anything to be thankful for?”
This week’s focus is on the practice of gratitude. Gratitude is defined as the “quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” For some, this practice may come easy and for others, there may be some challenges because we are used to talking about all the things we don’t have and all the things we wish were different in our lives. The great thing is that we can use our positive replacement tool to help us see our lives through a different lens.
Years ago, I started a gratitude practice where I bought a special journal (there is nothing better than buying a new journal) and I wrote on the first page, “Things I am Thankful For. No Negativity Allowed.” I made a commitment to myself to write every day at least 10 things I am thankful for. At first, this was hard, especially on the days when I was struggling with who I was and where my life was going. I forced myself to dig deeper and always came up with 10 things. Then there were other days when I couldn’t stop writing things I was thankful for. I started realizing that after a while I looked forward to writing things down and that my overall outlook on life had shifted.
There are many ways to start a gratitude practice. You can dedicate a journal to just the things you are thankful for and decide to write in it every morning when you wake up or right before bed. Nowadays, with technology there are apps that are digital gratitude journals where you can even upload a photo to each day’s entry. (This is what I actually use now since I travel a lot.) Another practice I started a few years ago was on Jan 1st to take a big mason jar and throughout the year write special moments, exciting accomplishments, etc on colored post-its and place them in the jar. On New Year’s Eve, I open the jar and spread the post-its out on my bed and read each one of them. It’s amazing the amount of things we forget over the year, and I love getting to relive each memory even for just a second (not to mention the different colored post-its make an aesthetically pleasing collage).
I did answer my friend’s question, “what if you don’t have anything to be thankful for?” There is always something…waking up each morning, being able to eat, having a loving family, supportive friends. Living in NYC, I am always reminded to be thankful that I have an apt with a bed, heat in the winter, and air conditioning in the summer. These may sound like givens, but for many they are not. Even when it feels like everything is going against us, every experience offers a space to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, and for that we should be thankful.
The small amount of time it takes to stop and be thankful will be rewarding in so many ways. I challenge you to start a practice of your own and after a week reflect on how you feel, how you view your life, and how you see the world around you.
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