I confess – I have abandoned more journals than I care to admit. I always begin with good intentions. Like any devoted Oprah fan, I set out on a mission to write down three things I’m grateful for in an attempt to focus my attention on the blessings in my life. The whole process is like a diet – it works for a few weeks or a month and then I let it slip. I take a day off. Or a week. Or a month. Sometimes I pick it back up again and rededicate myself to the daily practice. (Once I even made it a whole year!) But eventually my journal ends up lost under a pile of papers or stuck between the seats of the couch cushions, collecting dust while my heart collects complaints and criticism.
I used to beat myself up for this abandoned gratitude. I dubbed myself a failure. But now I realize that I was setting myself up for failure. That there is more than one way to do this gratitude thing. Experts tell you how to do it “right” – select a beautiful journal and a pen that feels good, allocate time each day in your schedule and create a dedicated space where you can write comfortably without distractions or interruption. All great tips. But even when I follow them to the letter, I somehow end up getting derailed. This recipe for journal writing doesn’t work for all of us, all the time.
So, here are my personal tips for keeping an attitude of gratitude even if journal writing isn’t your thing!
1. Gratitude Cards: Who needs an entire notebook when you can do the job with a single index card? Buy a stack of colorful index cards and keep them someplace where you will see them. Any time you feel joy, take a minute to write a sentence or word down on an index card and post it on a wall, refrigerator or bulletin board so you can be reminded of your blessings. You can also use sticky notes.
2. Be Social: Turn your Facebook posts or Twitter tweets into a feed of gratitude. Make it a point to share your blessings with your virtual friends each day. You may be surprised to see some of them join in!
3. Gratitude Buddy: Find a partner who is interested in inviting more gratitude into her life as well. Make a commitment to share one thing each day that you are grateful for. Do it by phone, email, text or in person. It helps to have someone else depending on you and expecting you to deliver a thankful thought each day!
4. Thanksgiving Every Day: If you enjoy the tradition of going around the table at Thanksgiving dinner and expressing a sentiment of gratitude, why not make it a daily habit? If you have young children, make it a game. At my house, we play “High/Low” at dinnertime. Each person shares a “high” and a “low” from the day. It’s the one time of day when we all truly stop and connect with one another.
5. The Grateful Doodle: Sometimes there are no words to express our feelings. Let your markers and pencils do the talking by spending 10 minutes doodling your delight on a blank page. There’s a side effect to this creative exercise – you get to experience the Art of Being a Stress Free Mom!
6. Write Where You Are: Sometimes it’s just too much to add another place to go –another project to keep up with. What are you already writing on or in every day? A shopping list? Day planner? Devotional? Add a sentence of gratitude anywhere on the page! If you’re a digital momma, type it into an existing list on your smart phone. Don’t worry that it doesn’t “belong” there – that somewhere between the bananas and the paper towels you’ve written, “I’m thankful for my dog!” There are no rules – gratitude belongs everywhere!
7. Green and Grateful: For some people, it’s overwhelming to fill a book of blank pages or use a stack of index cards. Try the eco-friendly approach of expressing your gratitude on a chalkboard or whiteboard someplace visible in your home. When something new fills your heart with joy, erase it and start over. This takes the pressure off how many sentiments you have to come up with and how often you need to add to the list. And it spreads joy and gratitude to everyone in the home.
Now, does that help make the gratitude thing seem more manageable? I’d love to know what’s working for you – leave a comment here and let me know how you are practicing gratitude in your own way!
Copyright 2011 Teresa Ceniccola