In the mid-90s, I watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show that focused on gratitude journals. I don’t recall the specific details, other than Oprah was passionate about the power of writing in a gratitude journal. Back then, I knew two things. One, when Oprah talked, millions of people listened, myself included. Two, I had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and also was in the middle of extensive infertility treatment and in need of a positive life change. So, I started my first gratitude journal.
For the better part of the last 25 years, I have kept a gratitude journal. Before I go to sleep, I write down 3-5 things that I am grateful for that day. It’s that simple and that challenging. When things are going smoothly, I could fill up page after page after page with everyone and everything that I am grateful for in that moment. When things are really difficult, sometimes, the page remains blank, or I force myself to write down something, anything, just to keep this practice going.
So, was Oprah right? Will a keeping a gratitude journal change your life? Well, far be it from me to disagree with Oprah or to guarantee that this one practice will change the life of every single person who uses it. So, yes, Oprah was right, at least in my case. Keeping a gratitude journal has changed my life for the better.
This daily practice has trained my brain to seek out things to be grateful for throughout the day, which is especially helpful when I am struggling to get through the day. On those days, this practice reminds me that I can feel sad, angry, anxious, and any other feeling and feel grateful, too. When I create space for gratitude, it gives me hope and reminds me of all that is good in the world, which is comforting.
When everything is going right in the world, gratitude is like the icing on the cake. Being able to identify what I am grateful for makes the good days even better. When I write down what I am grateful for, it makes me smile and opens up my heart for more joy, love, and abundance.
Over the years, my gratitude journal practice has evolved in two ways. These two tweaks to my original practice have truly elev8ed my current practice:
- Add Because. When I first started my gratitude journal, I focused on what I was grateful for. I wrote things, such as, I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my job. I am grateful for my home. There is nothing wrong with these statements, in and of themselves, at all. To make them more meaningful, I added because to the equation. I am grateful for my family, because they rallied around me today when I received disappointing news and made me feel loved and supported. I am grateful for my job, because it enables me to provide food, clothing, shelter, and health insurance for my family. I am grateful for my home, because it is my sanctuary from the outside world and feels so warm and inviting. Including why I am grateful has made this practice much more impactful.
- Focus on Something New Each Day. It is easy to get into the habit of listing the same things each day that we are grateful for, such as our family, friends, home, job, and health, because those are the people and things that may mean the most to us. To expand my gratitude practice, I began to focus on the people, places, and things that I was grateful for that day and to look for something new to add to the list. This has helped me to keep my gratitude list fresh and meaningful.
Whether or not you keep a gratitude journal, I hope that you find something every day to be grateful for and that you are the reason that someone else feels grateful.
That’s another story . . .
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