Gratitude Mood Lady
Gratitude is a subject VERY dear to my heart and one I hadn't ever thought I would write about in newsletter form. The biggest reason for that is that there has been so much written about gratitude. There's a little voice in my head that says, 'Oh Janette, your readers know all they need to know about gratitude. There's nothing new to say.' AND there's a louder voice in my head these days that says, 'Yes Janette. The importance of Gratitude is out there. And still you see people every day missing so much of the beauty and richness all around them. So whether it's the first time someone hears this or the tenth time, maybe they'll find one little thing that supports them in appreciating more and/or moving forward in some way.' Hey, if there's any chance of you and/or me getting that gem, that's the choice for me. So....let's talk Gratitude.
I started my gratitude journals in 1996. I remember distinctly because I was visiting a friend in Stockholm at the time and she was at work in the afternoon. I happened to turn on the tv and Oprah was on. She was interviewing Sarah Ban Breathnach who was talking about her book, Simple Abundance. Oprah said she had started her gratitude journal, a concept introduced in the book. You've most likely heard about it. Every evening before you go to bed, write down 5 things you are grateful for. It can be anything - people, things, feelings, events...whatever.
I have books of gratitude now as I have been doing it pretty regularly for about 17 years. There are some years where there are fewer entries and some years when one book isn't enough for all the gratitude. Through the years, I have revisited my journals and it's amazing what I find. It's also amazing what re-reading the pages gives me. I'd like to share some of my findings and some of my entries with you so when you're ready, you can begin (or re-start) your own Gratitude Therapy.
1. Pure joy in the present moment is never far away. The more you focus on what you're grateful for, the more things you notice to be grateful for. I know that my gratitude journals helped me slow down a bit and see things I wouldn't ordinarily see. They helped me notice small things that happened that made me smile or that touched me or that brought me joy or pleasure in some way. Here are some examples:
- April 19th, 2001: I'm grateful for the little bird I saw this morning with a leaf in its mouth.
- September 4th, 2002: For the nice man with the cat that pumped my bicycle tire
- January 2nd, 2006: For going outside without a coat and not having to change shoes! (This was when I was living in snowy, cold Sweden and was in California for my Christmas visit.)
When I look at entries like these (and there are lots of them), I realize how small things make such a difference. It helps me remember that me smiling at a stranger can make their day as well. My friendliness or my concern can make a huge difference. It also helps me pay attention. I noticed things in nature, the light, the air so much more when I started writing down these things (now it's automatic). And lastly, it reminds me that the beautiful, small things are at my fingertips constantly, every day.
So now it's your turn. Think about your day so far or your day yesterday, and what were some very small things that made a difference - something you did or saw or felt or something that someone else did or said. Come up with one or two things and sit with them a moment. What can you do today to be present, to appreciate, to make a difference (to yourself or to someone else)?
2. A few words can bring back/create a whole feeling. We forget sometimes how much power WE have over the feelings we experience. It's easy sometimes to get swept away by events, by the moods, words, feelings of others. We can take these in and then get stuck in a downward spiral. So it can be helpful to remember that it doesn't take much to bring in a whole new feeling - that WE can create that feeling when we want. Here are some snippets that take me immediately to a very specific place.
- May 4th, 2008: I'm grateful for my balcony. (This is when I was living in Sweden in the apartment I bought there. When I bought it, there wasn't a balcony and then they were built on. I LOVED my balcony. When I think of it, I feel peaceful and content.)
- September 9, 2002: For the wonderful peaceful feeling I had when I came home and sat in my window. (This is when I was living in Finland in a very small and very cute apartment up on the 5th floor with no elevator. I had a huge window sill that I could sit in. Life felt simple, free and expansive there.)
- May 16, 2003: For hearing Dad's excitement about this place. (This was on a very memorable trip to Italy, staying at a beautiful agri-tourism home. It's a precious memory.)
I LOVE the very specific feelings I get when I read these entries. It can change my mood in an instant. It helps me see all I've done & experienced and it helps me remember that I can create the feelings that I WANT just by choosing what I am focusing on. Re-visiting my journals really helps me see that focus is key.
Again, your turn. What are you focusing on right now? Is your focus helping you to move forward? Can you find some things in your life right now that are really precious, maybe even every day things? What happens when you focus on these things - what happens when you truly appreciate what you DO have?
3. Painting a picture of YOU. So as you've noticed by now, I'm a fan of re-reading Gratitude Journals. It's actually one of the things I'm always shocked about when I hear people talking about keeping one of these journals - they leave out the BEST part. And that's re-reading the journals. It's like therapy. You can see why from the 2 points above. And lastly, it's because when you have a collection of entries, you have a pretty good picture of YOU.
- May 19th, 2002: I'm grateful for having succeeded teaching 1 semester of university English!
- May 30th, 2010: For monthly dinners (& good restaurants) with my Stockholm 'family'
- January 1st, 2007: For a really good year of growth, introspection, travel, excitement, challenges, support, laughter, family, friends & love.
- November 17th, 2011: All the wonderful people & meaningful connections I have in my life
Reading these kinds of entries brings me back to places I have been, things I have done, experiences and feelings - me living my life. It is also a great reminder that there are SO many more adventures to be had. And it's such a great picture of WHO I am being. It helps me see what is most important to me & how connected I feel when I'm honoring those things.
Now I'd like to give you a challenge. If you're new to Gratitude Journals, go ahead and keep track of your 5 gratitude items each day for one week. At the end of the week, look at your entries. Who do you see in these journals? What types of things are important to YOU? Are you filling your days with these things? Are you truly relishing what you have? If you have a gratitude journal already, is it time to re-start or be more consistent with it?
Going forward with Gratitude
Even with all my years of keeping Gratitude Journals, I am still learning. I'd say there are two main things that I am working toward & would like to develop even more when it comes to gratitude. The first is that in going through all of my journals, there were still some VERY noticeable gaps of no entries. When I thought about these times, I recognized them as periods when I would have especially needed them - challenging times when gratitude would have helped create necessary shifts. If you are going through a challenging time, I invite you to really embrace the challenge & start recording some gratitude. Remember, you can start small.
And the second thing is that I'd like to share more of the gratitude. I have hundred of entries filled with people -people who have been and are extremely important to me. I do feel that I show my gratitude often, but would like to share my entries with people personally so it's not just written in a book. I want to know that THEY know how grateful I am to have them in my life.
So to get started with this spirit of sharing my gratitude, I'd like to thank YOU for reading. It has been almost 2 years since I started this newsletter and I'm so very grateful to all of you who read it. I invite you to pay attention to what YOU are grateful for today, even in this very moment. I invite you to enjoy your Gratitude Therapy!