Ready or not, it’s that time of year again.
Yup, the craziness of the holiday season is about to make its advent, and yes, Halloween absolutely counts since we all know it’s the true marker for the beginning of the end-of-the-year sprint.
So, maybe, like a lot of folks I know (me included), you might be searching for a kick start way to feeling a little better about your life right now.
And believe it or not, there’s an easy way to do it.
First, know that there’s no special equipment to buy, and that there isn’t a prescription in the mix either. Neither will you have to memorize a mantra nor sign up for yoga classes. There’s not even a special diet on the horizon. As a matter of fact, you won’t need any money at all. Well, maybe one dollar.
I’m talking about a gratitude journal.
Here’s how it works.
Wait until the end of the day, after dinner and after those pesky errands, calls and chores are completed. Then, right before settling down for the night, park yourself in a comfy spot, grab a piece of paper, or better yet, a small blank journal (here’s where a dollar store comes into play) and pencil or pen. If at all possible, make sure it’s quiet, too.
Now write down five things that happened that day that you’re grateful for.
Don’t spend a lot of effort thinking about this daily list. And, trust me: even in the midst of the utter lunacy of the season, it will be easy to come up with five things.
I know this for sure because I’ve kept this kind of diary, on and off, for nearly two decades, and through a whole lot of ups and downs. My only regret is that I often stop after a few months, and that it’s sometimes a few years before I start up again.
My lists are never very long, and yours needn’t be either.
I’ll put the date first, and then start right in. Most times, my sentences are about occurrences that happen all of the time. Things like my car starting right up, or a dog waking me with a big sloppy kiss on the cheek. Being a confirmed foodie, I’ve also been known to scribble a few words about an amazing recipe I’ve found, or remember a great meal I savored earlier that day. And sometimes, my gratitude is about stuff that doesn’t happen every day, such as a writing assignment falling into my lap, or finding an old friend on Facebook (especially a fellow clown) who I haven’t talked to in decades.
Here’s the very best reason to keep a gratitude journal.
It can, literally, change how you feel about yourself and about everything going on around you.
Somehow—and you’ll need to ask someone else exactly how this works—it magically rewires your brain to make you more grateful for the life you have.
While this positivity doesn’t happen overnight, I’m usually feeling a whole lot lighter, and a whole lot better, about my place in the world less than two weeks after starting one of these diaries.
As it turns out, this is a pretty common consequence.
A quick Google search has an article titled The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. The piece affirms that nurturing this sort of appreciation not only makes us happier, we also become healthier; our self-esteem increases, and yes, we’ll even want to exercise more. (Check out the entire piece, at http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/).
And while some folks are very good at just hearing about the upside of gratitude and then mindfully and purposefully putting its benefits into action, that has never worked for me.
Instead, probably because I’m both a visual and kinesthetic learner, I actually need to be looking at something, and then, often writing that something down, before it sticks in my head. That’s why my gratitude journal, which sits in plain sight on my coffee table, acts as a daily tool to kick the thankfulness gear into motion.
Looking over several pages from the past with the dates right there, it’s also gratifying to see one more thing.
And that’s this: not only have I come through intact after a whole lot of not-so-terrific stuff life has thrown at me, I’ve always been able to find something, even the smallest thing, to appreciate during those times.
And at the end of the tunnel, after the tears have dried, I’m usually smiling, too. And grateful, always grateful.
How about you? What are you grateful for, and how do you practice gratitude? I look forward to your comments!