I feel very blessed in my own life and I TRY to be thankful each day. Over the years I’ve kept a gratitude journal and although have not used it consistently, I’ve tried to be intentional about focusing on the positive aspects to my day. Some years I’ve done better than others. Keeping a journal is just one way to practice gratitude, because like most emotions, it’s similar to a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
Here’s an example of what I wrote in my journal yesterday. I try and be specific to the day rather than just writing “kids, health, shelter, etc.” but whatever works for you.
1. My daughter had a minor surgery yesterday on her mouth. Although minor, I always get nervous when my kids get put to sleep, so I was very thankful she got through the surgery with no complications.
2. While Catie was in her surgery, I sat outside in the sunlight rather than sitting in the waiting room. The surgery took a little over an hour so I was out there for a while. There was no place to sit so I just sat on the sidewalk next to the parking lot. While I was there, two people stopped to check on me. A man stopped the first time and asked if I was ok. He said his son was worried I had fallen or was sick. I explained I was just waiting on my daughter to come out of surgery and I was fine. A bit later, a woman stopped and asked if I needed a ride or to use her phone. Again, I explained I was fine. But I was very thankful for kind people who aren’t embarrassed or afraid to stop and check on someone.
3. After we got home from the surgery and I got Catie settled in to sleep for a while, I set up a chair outside and got to sit quietly in the sun for a whole hour. I brought my headphones out to listen to music but once I got there, I just wanted quiet. I felt the sun on my face, listened to the birds, rubbed Bella’s belly and was very grateful for that uninterrupted hour of absolutely nothing.
4. I was thankful for the amazing dinner my husband fixed for us and the fact he also cleaned up afterwards because I wasn’t feeling great.
5. I was thankful for the 30 minutes the kids and I were piled on my bed with old pictures laughing and reminiscing about them as babies and toddlers.
Most of us are pretty good about FEELING blessed, but are we as good about SPEAKING of our gratitude. This is where I fall short. I am thankful and appreciative for so many people in my life, but I seldom take the time to tell them. Last year I started mailing a handwritten note or card once a week to someone, telling them thank you for something they had done for me or just letting them know I appreciated their friendship or was thinking of them. It could be a friend, a family member, or a co-worker. I was amazed how much it meant to people. I got the sweetest responses! One friend even told me she kept my card in her purse and she looked at it often. For some reason, I stopped doing this, but I’m committed to begin again.
I have a good friend who may not be as good at counting her own blessings, but she does a phenomenal job of speaking of her gratitude of others. She is always writing a thank you card, or buying someone a small token of appreciation for something they helped her with. Every time she does it, I think “why didn’t I think of that?!” So, I decided to spend the last few days, not just being thankful, but SPEAKING of my gratitude. Instead of just feeling thankful for Catie’s successful surgery, I wrote the doctor’s office a thank you note. I sent my husband a random text telling him how much I appreciate how hard he works to support our family. I feel this way, but I never tell him. I called an old friend and left a long message letting her know how much her friendship meant to me during the death of my dad. I told my son how much I appreciate the effort he is putting into school these days, and just this morning told my daughter how grateful I was for the smoothie she made me (and she even used skim milk knowing I was trying to be healthier!) I sent a coworker an email thanking her for all her help at work and I went out of my way to tell a student how much I appreciate the smile she gives me every single day.
The result…it works! I read somewhere that expression of gratitude to others increases levels of energy, optimism and empathy and I believe it. The sincere, heartfelt responses I got from those who I showed my gratitude to, made it all worth it. So, thank YOU for reading my blog and for those of you who are brave enough to comment or share it with others. I sincerely appreciate it. YOU will be in my journal tonight as my number one thing to be grateful for today. I would love to hear about the ways you speak of your gratitude! Remember, even on a bad day, there is always something to be thankful for!