Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lessons From My Gratitude Journal

I read an interesting post over at the Simple Dollar today. It seems he has been keeping a gratitude journal recently. I don't know if you remember, but that was one of my own Goals for 2009. A gratitude journal is a very simple concept - at some point during the day you sit down and write out a few things that happened during the day that you are grateful for. In many ways it is like counting your blessings, except on a micro level. Instead of being grateful for "friends and family", for example, you might write down "I am grateful for the lunch I had today with a friend. We got the opportunity to catch up and hear about each other's lives."

You can have your own way of doing it - each person should find their own method. The important thing is taking a little time each day to reflect on what is good in your life. Personally, I have a little notebook by the side of the bed. Each night before going to sleep I write down ten things that were important to me or that made me smile during the day. I believe that writing about your gratitude is more valuable than just thinking about it. There is something very special in the act of writing down what you are grateful for - plus, when you are blue, you can flip back and see what you have written. It is an instant pick-me-up.

The author of The Simple Dollar noticed an interesting thing....

I have a collection of about twenty five of these entries now, and many of them (...) usually involve my family, enjoying some quiet time alone, a writing success, or a period of feeling really good (like an after-exercise rush).More importantly, though, virtually none of the items I’ve listed in nearly a month revolve around spending money. The high points of my day usually don’t revolve around any sort of financial exchange at all.

I would have to agree with that.

I did have lunch with a good friend yesterday, and I did put it in my journal. But it wasn't the food or the idea of spending money that I enjoyed, it was spending quality time with someone I care about who is important to me. As I think about the kinds of things that I jot in my gratitude journal each night, they tend to be about moments that are special to me: seeing a perfect blue sky, a long luxurious nap, seeing friends and family, getting a project done. When they do involve money, it is thankfulness for what I have: a good job, extra income, book sales. When things are particularly hard, I think about all the good things that I have that many do not: a well stocked pantry, a car that runs well, a safe and warm home.

In my situation, it would be easy to let myself slide into a "poor me" attitude, but the gratitude journal keeps me grounded - it reminds me of what I do have. When I find myself wanting throw my hands up in the air and go on a shopping spree, it reminds me that I can find just as much pleasure - more, in fact - in quieter things, such as having a cup of tea and sitting and reading a chapter of a good book. When I start to wonder what I am doing all this for, I need only open a page at random.

I admit, I am not perfect about writing in it every day, but the point isn't to be "perfect." The point is to regularly remind myself all the wonderful things I am blessed with - and grateful to have.

Photo by: SnoShuu


Miss M said...

What a wonderful idea, I'm sure it will make for great memories. Do you have trouble coming up with 10 things each day?

Kari said...

What a great thing to do. After reading this post and the one at Simple Dollar I'm thinking this is something good to do with my daughter as well as myself.

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

I hadn't really thought about a gratitude journal, but that sounds like a wonderful idea. One of the things I am trying to focus on this year is being more positive in general. I'm doing pretty well, but I think something like a gratitude journal would help.

Even without the journal, though, I've discovered I have much better days when I don't spend money. There are the occasional days where I'm excited to spend a little money - like when I buy a new DVD, or the other day when I bought my Blu-ray DVD player; however, I typically find that my days are more rewarding when I've focused on enriching a relationship.

Dawn said...

Miss M - Not really. When I get down to the last one or two it sometimes takes a minute, but there always things that come to mind. The key is not to worry that they have to be "big" things. I can be grateful for soft, perfect sheets on my bed, or a funny voicemail from a friend. Plus, there are always all the things that happen day to day - having a steady job, a car that runs, a roof over my head, health for friends and family - it just goes on and on.

Kari - Oh, this would be a lovely thing to do with a child! What a great way to teach them to appreciate the important things in life!

Kristy - What an interesting discovery! Kind of goes against that whole consumer mentality we are taught, doesn't it?! I am going to start paying attention to that as well. I've never really looked at the difference between my no-spend days and days I spend.

getting stuff done said...

am so liking your blog

Dawn said...

Hey there Getting Stuff Done, thank you so much!!!