Trying to be grateful
This is a follow-up to Thanksgiving. We should never get tired of giving thanks – of being grateful.
There are people and groups who recommend the practice of keeping “gratitude journals.” I hear it mentioned at church occasionally. I hear people say that it’s been therapeutic in their lives to write down things that they are thankful for.
Addiction recovery programs sometimes encourage participants to do this kind of journaling. It’s something everyone can benefit from I’m told.
I have tried this, off and on, with some success. I decided to give it a try again this past August. Most of my life, I’ve heard the general command of advice: “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”
I’ve now tried it. And I’m now continuing to try it. Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but, I humbly (in the form of a “humble brag”) can tell you that I now have a “gratitude journal entry” for each day for several months running.
Since we’re at the far end of November, barring some catastrophe, I should end up with a decent chunk of the year covered with short, daily notes of things that I have regarded as blessings in my life. Most of the notes have been very short and to the point.
I’ve decided to give you a front row seat to my “gratitude brain” from the past few months. After making an entry about the day otherwise, I write the word “Gratitude” and make a note of something for which I am thankful.
Here are just a few semi-random examples – just since August:
August 11th: Gratitude: Having a family who likes to do things and get together (Being in Leadville, CO for a bike race)
August 17th: Gratitude: Living in Sanpete (Watched the new flagpole installation in front of the court house that day)
August 19th: Gratitude: Being able to adapt (after having been in line for a Peter Frampton concert at the Sandy Amphitheater which got last minute cancelled; we went bowling as an “adaptation”)
August 25th: Gratitude: Jackson, Amy, Luke! Family! (the day I officiated at the wedding of my son and daughter-in-law at Dead Horse Point State Park)
September 6th: Gratitude: Archer’s Diagnosis (the veterinarian determined that a lump in Archer, the wonder Sheltie’s “armpit” was a lipoma not cancer.
September 18th: Gratitude: Friends! (On the occasion of 4 couples making a Denny’s run to Salina for dinner)
October 14th: Gratitude: Wonders of Nature (the day of the annular eclipse of the sun)
October 18th: Gratitude: Another granddaughter! (the birthday (literally) of Riley Ruth Ogden our 5th grand girl. Like a fisherman, I’d tell you that she weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces and was 20 inches long.
November 14: Gratitude: That my health is as good as it is (I noticed lots of people with problems that day)
Many of my entries are very simple, like: “Beautiful Weather,” “A Nice Autumn Day,” and “Corned Beef and Cabbage.”
I suppose that the theory with gratitude journaling is that when a person focuses on the blessings that one has, it will help put challenges and problems into perspective. I gather that this is one version of “Gratitude Therapy.”
Some time back, I read a little about this in “Psychology Today.” Many years ago I subscribed to that magazine. Psychology was one of several majors that I declared while a freshman in college. I suppose that I felt like every time a new quarter started, I should have a fresh start with a new major.
Here’s a lengthy quote from the Psychology Today website: “Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has – as opposed to a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs…. Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, grateful thinking – and especially expression of it to others – is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.”
I’m reminded of the church hymn “Count Your Many Blessings” (1897) which was one of more than 5,000 (yes, five thousand) hymn texts written by a Methodist preacher, the Rev. Johnson Oatman, Jr. We sing it in my church quite frequently. The whole song and especially the lyrics of the second verse go along with our “gratitude therapy” topic:
“Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.”
I suppose that all of this makes sense. I certainly know people who don’t seem to recognize that they have a lot of good things in their life that they should be grateful for.
Many people seem to let negative things dominate their lives. They forget to pause and acknowledge that there are many positives that should be remembered with gratitude.
And, dang it, (as I shrug and look down) I suppose that at times, I’m one of those people. Gratitude journaling, even in a minimal way, as I have been doing it, I now conclude, has been a positive experience.
Think about it. — Merrill