There is a great article on The Huffington Post about how to start practicing and cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your life. Gratitude, being thankful, it sounds so simple and yet I find that I constantly gravitate toward negativity. My automatic responses to life and in particular to myself are negative.
Change is possible.
Most of us know that habits are a big part of the human experience. Often these actions and behaviors that comprise habits are things we do unconsciously. For example, after 30 plus years, I can brush my teeth without thinking about that specific action, which allows me time to daydream or think about other things instead of concentrating on how to move my brush around my mouth to clean off tartar. So in theory, to make some lasting changes, I need to develop new habits, which is why a gratitude journal is such a fabulous idea.
I recently stumbled upon Ougies Gratitude Journals. The above picture is of the journal I ordered from their website that I just received yesterday (note: it does take a few weeks to arrive in the mail as they are shipping the books from Australia). Not only is the journal beautiful, easy to use and pleasing to touch and hold, but the company will donate a book to a child in need (literally paying it forward – see what I did there?!). My donated book was sent to South Africa. The premise of the journal is simple: write down 3 things you are grateful for in the morning, and then before you go to bed, reflect on 3 amazing things that happened to you during the day. This journal is a tool to create a new habit. My hope is that if I stick to this process daily, for 30+ days, my thoughts and perceptions of the world should start to change and shift to automatic thoughts of gratitude.
We perceive that which we focus on.
If you view the world from an optimistic lens, you are more likely to see opportunities and experience blessings, joy, awe, etc., which are the fun aspects of life. I love when something seems like divine intervention or synchronicity. Those experiences in my life are simply magical. Sure we could get mired down in the science and explain how I am prescribing meaning when meaning does not exist or WHATEVER, but I would rather live in a Harry Potter world where possibilities exist and the good guys/gals are flawed but capable of great love and acts of courage.
Do what works.
In my teens, I used to journal almost daily. I think I was more spiritual then (I was definitely more religious), and my journals were a way to pray. I found that writing (or typing) helped me to focus and actually “talk” to God. When I would try to pray in a more silent, eyes-closed fashion, I would be good for the first minute or two and then my mind would wander. Journaling helped me to focus. The outcome of journaling was not really an increase in answered prayers but an increase in my ability to look at life in a positive, hopeful way. During that time, I had lost my mom to cancer and was dealing with some tough family drama, but I remember being so hopeful about my life and future. I was the first kid in my family to go straight to college. My family came from middle-class wealth and if I wanted to go to school, I was looking at attending a state school, which would have been fine, but I wanted to go to Gonzaga University, an expensive, Catholic private school. I remember praying for a way to attend. I got accepted but my family could not afford the tuition. Call it divine intervention or my ability to find opportunities because I was focused on hope, but I ended up finding additional funding, which allowed me to attend GU, which led me to make amazing, life-long friends, and gave me the opportunity to study in Florence, Italy, which gave me the confidence to one day pack up and move to Boston, and so much more. When I journaled, I remember experiencing more awe and excitement in my life. Lately, I have not experienced much awe, but I am also not focusing on gratitude, nor am I journaling.
Today is day 1 of using my Ougies Gratitude Journal, and I can feel the seeds of hope sprouting somewhere deep inside.