Expressing Gratitude Daily

Gratitude turns what we have into enough. – Anonymous

In a previous post, I wrote about my book journal. I also have a sketchbook and a writer’s journal. My husband will tell you that I need another journal like a porcupine needs more quills, but I added one more to my collection: a gratitude journal.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving was a little more than a week ago. This was a tough holiday. Covid-19 pared our normally full guest list down to myself and my husband. I expected to be sad, but we had a lovely mellow day of football and reading. The afternoon was simple and fulfilling

As I tossed a salad for our dinner, I took stock of what we have. We have food on our table, and, as we fight Covid, we don’t need to leave our home for anything but the essentials. We live in a safe neighborhood that encourages walking, sunshine, and social distancing. We have a car that takes us on lovely drives through the countryside, a mood booster that compromises no one’s health. We have regular calls with our children and on Thanksgiving we zoomed with eight other family members whose faces I haven’t seen in almost a year.  

Our family has not been spared from the coronavirus, but we have been lucky that no one has been hospitalized. Our greatest concern is for those nurses in our circle who are suffering from daily mental and physical exhaustion.

Once I counted my blessings, my heart felt lighter than it did than before I began tossing the salad.

My takeaway from the holiday? Despite missing people and traditions, what we had was more than enough.

That evening I finished another cozy mystery. As I added the title to my book journal, I decided to start one more project: a gratitude journal.

Wrestling a clean notebook from the bottom of my nightstand, I grabbed a pen, set a timer for 15 minutes, and began listing the people and things in my life that bring me joy. That night, I slept better than the entire week previously.

The next night I did the same thing: 15 minutes listing the good things about my life. Then I wrote the next night, the next night, and the next night. And every morning I begin the day with a calmer outlook.

While it sounds a bit wonky, looking inward can open a person’s eyes to the world beyond their front door. People who focus on the good things in their lives empathize with the struggles of other people, much in the way reading fiction fosters empathy. For me, knowing that my family has blessings many others don’t becomes a call to help.

In answer to that call, we are supporting our local food bank and homeless shelter. We are also donating coats and toys to brighten a child’s Christmas. While we can’t help everyone, we can brighten some corners of our ever-shrinking pandemic world.

How can you keep a gratitude journal? There are as many ways as there are people:

  • I keep a running list with minimal explanation. By committing them to ink on paper, I am saying a quiet ‘thank you’.
  • Some writers prefer prompts, such as “Who is the person in your life you are most thankful for?” or “Write a letter to someone who made an impact in your life”.

There is no right or wrong way to go about it. There is also no rule about how your journal should look. I use a spiral notebook. Others use lined leather-bound journals or specialized gratitude journals with sections for lists, drawings, and writing prompts.

The one thing they all have in common is thankfulness.

Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?

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