A decade ago, I started a gratitude journal. Every morning I’d list seven things I was grateful for.
Last year I upped the number on my list to 10. I list five things in the morning and another five at night.
Some days my gratitude entries come easily.
Other times not so much.
My journal entries act like little diaries because my gratitude for someone or something or some experience or other serves as a record of what I’ve done that day, or where I am in my head and my heart at a certain time.
One day last winter I sat down to read them all.
It felt soooo GOOD.
Like a gift from heaven.
My spirit soared. And there was a big smile on my face.
Reading all the small things that I was grateful for really made a big impact on me.
From a health perspective, when we feel and express gratitude, we’re likely to increase our optimism, vitality, our satisfaction with life, emotional well-being and hope.
Other benefits include better quality sleep — sleeping better (and longer).
This is why many people choose to do gratitude journaling at night.
It helps them sleep better.
Settling down, quieting your mind and expressing positive thoughts, may help to calm your nervous system.
There’s also a positive relationship between gratitude and healthy eating, exercise and keeping up with doctor visits.
And if you’re in a relationship, gratitude can improve certain features of it such as deepening feelings of connectedness.
Many of us desire happiness. We seek it everywhere.
Happiness equates with well-being.
And expressing thanks can help to reshape our frame of mind into a happier one, because it increases our awareness in such a way that we don’t miss life, our life, with all its beautiful details and blessings that we might otherwise skip.
Yesterday I was driving across a bridge, and there was a huge expanse of sky that opened up before me.
My mind was focused on the list of things I needed to accomplish for Thanksgiving.
My eyes focused on the road ahead.
Suddenly there was a glimmer of pink.
Looking up, the faint blue sky was streaked with hot, dark pink. The most gorgeous pink that went from a light to a deep rose color.
My entire vista of sky was infused with it.
And it reminded me of an essay I read recently by Saul Bellow in which he talks about photographs saying that the camera has trained us to see the external world.
We look at and not into it, as some philosopher, he says, put it.
The camera shows us the externals, and we supply the rest with our imagination.
I love that concept that we can look at something and not into it.
Whether we see beauty or ugliness, for example, is up to us.
It’s a choice, and what we choose to see, we create.
If we want a more beautiful world, we need to look not so much at the world and what’s happening but into the world, by using our imagination and consciously choosing to see more of its beauty and delving into it with more thought, greater perception, exploration and questioning.
The moment I registered the vivid pink sky, the to-do list I was absorbed by faded, and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the scene above me – looking at it, as if viewing a photograph.
There I was in my car longing to connect with this sky, to look into it, to understand the beauty of it on a different level, to be in it — and not be little me down there and big sky up there, so distant, but to envelop it in a deeper way with …
And of course, this became one of my gratitude entries. Gratefulness for the profound beauty of the sky and the wonder it instilled in me.
While we generally think of God, the Universe, Spirit (whatever you choose to believe) as creating the sky and bringing us into being as well, consider that we, too, are creators.
It’s up to us to bring into being a much better world.
One way we can do this is through the simple act of giving thanks.
What we do with what we see and experience can be expressed in gratitude, appreciation and a sense of happiness.
The more we look into our world (not merely at it) and both see and live the positive, the more we’ll create that better world for ourselves and for others.
Do you keep a gratitude journal? If yes, does it contribute to your well-being? How do you express gratitude and appreciation at other times of the year, not only Thanksgiving? Please comment below, we’d love to hear from you.