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.
So, finally, this year, I decided to give it a try. 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 continuing to try it. Not to pat myself on the back too vigorously, I humbly (in the form of a “humble brag”) can tell you that I have a “gratitude journal entry” for each day so far in this year of 2019.
Since we’re at the far end of November, barring some catastrophe, I should end up with an entire year of 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 this year. 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 some semi-random examples – one from each month this year so far:
Jan. 3rd: Gratitude: Our three kids are going snowboarding together tomorrow. I love that my kids are friends!
Feb. 28th: Gratitude: Entertainment options here in Sanpete County; especially events at Snow College. (After seeing “Phantom of the Opera at Snow’s theatre that night)
March 30th:Gratitude: The abundance of food in this country…even when I abuse the blessing. (after having eaten at a buffet that night)
April 11th: Gratitude: A warm house on a cold night.
May 22nd: Gratitude: Diane’s willingness to be the “handywoman” of the house. (She ripped off wallpaper, prepped, painted, and pretty much “re-did” three bathrooms by herself over a couple of weeks time)
June 10th: Gratitude: Good health – Good life! (On the occasion of my 67th birthday)
July 18th-21st: Family! (Same entry four days in a row; on the occasion of a family reunion in Idaho)
Aug. 29th: Gratitude: That my mental health is less tied to wins now than it used to be. (After attending the BYU/Utah football game, where the Utes beat the Cougars for the ninth straight time)
Sept. 28th: Gratitude: Old Friends, Old Music, Good Times! (After attending a “Three Dog Night” concert with a friend from my youth)
Oct. 18th: Gratitude: Friends who can respond to spontaneity. (On the occasion of friends accepting a very “spur of the moment” invitation to go to dinner and then watching a movie together at home)
Nov. 19th: Gratitude: That I can still get up and down to do things on the roof. (After putting up Christmas lights on the house)
Many of my entries are very simple, like: “Beautiful Weather,” “Spring is just around the corner,” and “Fridays – ahh, a break!.”
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, 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.
As I close here now, since it’s Thanksgiving time, I think it appropriate to remind you of the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving.
This version was provided to me by way of a video received on my phone from my four-year old granddaughter, Scout. Here goes:
“There was a mean king, so the Pilgrims sailed to Africa on a big giant boat. There were no chairs, no houses, no cars, no hotels and no food. They were sitting right down in the dirt with their pants on. They were waiting and waiting and waiting for the Indians to bring food. Then they had a giant feast! That’s what we’re going to do at our school!”
Happy Thanksgiving Sanpete! Happy Feasting! And safe travels to all those coming and going.