I have been writing notes in a journal about those things for which I am grateful for six years. I don’t recall what motivated me to begin this habit. I don’t remember where I got the idea to begin the journal. I only know it’s something I enjoy doing.
Practicing gratitude has led me to find my greatest pleasure is in simplicity.
My desire for “things” has diminished. I no longer want the newest, the latest, the best, or more, things. I am no longer dissatisfied because I don’t have x, y, or z. I no longer have a vague dissatisfaction with what I possess or the contours of my life. My longing for something different, anything different has been quieted. Finding what I’m grateful for through quiet reflection and a sincere search of my heart brings me peace.
A few entries from my journal ~
I am grateful for this roof over my head and all the windows that keep out the cold air. I am grateful for the heat that warms my home. I am grateful for this comfortable bed and these wonderful pillows and blankets. I feel safe and peaceful.
I am grateful for the sound of my dog breathing and her occasional snores. She is such a sweet happy creature and she is so dependent on me. I am grateful that every day I can get out of bed to feed and walk her. I am grateful that I can take her to the vet when she needs medical treatment. I am grateful that she loves her bed and her blanket and that she is comfortable.
I am grateful that I can read and that there are so many books in the world to choose from.
I am grateful that I have had an education. I am fortunate to be a woman at this time in history and in this part of the world.
I am grateful for the beauty of spring and the sound of the birds I hear in the morning.
My practice is simple. I don’t schedule it. I write in the mornings before I start my day or at night before I shut off the light. I do it when I feel like it. It’s not on my task list. It’s not on my calendar. It’s not something I do to have something to check off.
Since I began my humble practice, the number of books and articles promoting gratitude has boomed. Every productivity and life-hacking guru seems to have written about practicing gratitude.
Some seem to equate it with doing push-ups or taking a vitamin. They present gratitude practice as another life hack rather than a practice that brings you closer to your heart and your soul. There’s no harm in what they’re doing, but I believe their presentation dilutes the value of the practice.
Oprah promoted a “Gratitude Jar” on her favorite things list last year. A gratitude jar is nothing more than a glass jar into which a person can deposit their written notes about what they are grateful for so that the notes can be read later. What makes it different from a plain jar? The word gratitude is prominently displayed on it.
These gratitude jars have become a thing on Etsy and Pinterest. One jar listed on Amazon costs $45.00 USD and comes with 365 small note cards engraved with the word “gratitude”. There are even how-to guides on how to create your own gratitude jar as a craft project. It seems as if there’s nothing that cannot be turned into a commodity these days. But the truth is, any jar, a shoe box, or a bowl would provide the same function.
There are books on gratitude that proclaim it will change your life, bring you emotional prosperity, that it’s a “journey to joy!”
There are blank books embossed with the words “Gratitude Journal” and other similar titles. There are books with prompts available for sale. I guess the prompts give you hints about the things for which you should be grateful. I imagine this comes in handy if you’re not in touch with your feelings, and in this modern world, that is all too common. It seems sad to me that anyone might need a prompt because I believe our thanks should come from our hearts and it is the process of reflection that is what is so beneficial about the practice.
I have been using a ruled Moleskine journal for my gratitude journal for years. I don’t date the entries. I use it in waves. Sometimes I write every day. Other times, it sits in my drawer for months. It hasn’t been “journey to joy”. I don’t know if it’s brought me “emotional prosperity” because I don’t know what that means. I only know this writing is peaceful. It slows me down. I stop leaning into the future wanting — wanting more things, wanting more experiences, more love, wanting more, more, more.
I find I have all I need in abundance even though I no longer have my former marital home or my largish income with paid vacations and bonuses. When I had those things, I never felt I had enough.
What concerns me about the buzzification and hackification of gratitude is how it’s being perverted. Some people are promoting a gratitude practice as a means to grow wealthy. They assert that by overcoming the “scarcity mindset”, you can attract wealth. This makes the sincere practice of genuine gratitude a means to an end.
We live in a capitalist society where we are bombarded by advertisements daily. From the moment we’re old enough to watch cartoons, we’re taught to want things. We’re taught to be dissatisfied. Our current cars and clothes aren’t good enough. They need to updated and upgraded regularly. We’re told we need bigger homes and that we must have all the latest appliances. Most people around the world are regularly exposed to the message – you must spend and consume.
Gratitude neutralizes the dissatisfaction that advertisers cultivate in us to sell us more than we need.
Feeling grateful to be alive, for what we have, and for the people in our lives puts us in touch with our hearts which is a beautiful and happy place from which to live.
Gratitude must be sincere to be gratitude. It seems like that is something that shouldn’t need to be said. Gratitude should not be transactional. There should be no giving to get anything. Being thankful is enough.
This is one of my favorite quotes:
“If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is “Thank You” that will be enough.” — Meister Eckhart
I’m grateful that I have this space to write and that you’ve read this.
© 2018, A. Breslin. All Rights Reserved