Writing daily gratitude lists

I’ve been consciously trying to do less to keep my inner balance, which is why I haven’t been posting much lately.  It’s so easy to get too busy in today’s busy world, running from thing to thing without improving the quality of our daily lives.  I tend to do a lot, and do them fast, and slowing down isn’t natural or easy for me, but it’s important to maintaining my emotional and physical health.

I’ve mentioned before the importance of a positive attitude, and thought I’d share something that I’ve found very valuable.  When I was 18 or 19 years old, I began a gratitude notebook – each day, I would list several things I was grateful for.  They could be big or small, but they couldn’t be the same things every day.  It was amazing what a difference it made to my outlook on life in a short time.  It forced me to look for the good and find it, every single day, even when I was feeling tired or irritable.  I did this for quite some time, then eventually stopped after 2 or 3 years, but by then had gotten into the habit of looking for the good in things.

I’ve often been told that I’m a positive person, or that I always seem upbeat and happy, and whatever positivity I’ve developed has its roots in this practice.  I wasn’t naturally an easy going and optimistic type (reading my poetry as a teenager points to the exact opposite), so whatever I positive outlook I have is a result of an ongoing effort on my part.  I try to look for the good in situations as much as I can.  Sometimes I’ve gone through periods that have emotionally sapped me and I’ve felt that my attitude needed some adjusting, so I’ve pulled out a notebook and gotten back into writing my gratitude lists.  It always helps me get my head back into a good space.

I strongly recommend this to anyone who wants to be a happier person.  Abraham Lincoln once said that a ‘person is as happy as he makes up his mind to be’, and I definitely feel that’s true.  We all have struggles in life. Not one of us has been given the easy pass through life, regardless of how it may look to people on the outside.  But when you decide you want to be happy, you can focus your mind on thinking thoughts that make you more joyful. 

It may seem like there’s nothing to write about at first.  That’s part of the power of this exercise.  We get so used to noticing every little thing that bothers us.  Writing down things to be grateful for forces you to look more deeply into your day so you can find them!  There are so many things every day that happen that are good, but we take them all for granted.

Did you wake up on time this morning? Did your alarm go off when it was supposed to?  Did you have running water when you wanted to wash up, toothpaste to brush your teeth, food to eat for breakfast?  When driving somewhere, did you get any green lights?  Did anyone let you merge?  Did you notice the clear sky, the warm sun, the newly blooming flowers on the side of the road? 

What if you were stuck in traffic because of construction or an accident?  Can you appreciate that you and your loved ones made it home safely?  The construction will lead to a smooth new road (or whatever improvement) – there are countries where the governments don’t use tax monies to improve the roads.  Didn’t hit any potholes on the way home?  Write it down!

What if you were in an accident?  Could it have been worse?  The check bounced – maybe you can appreciate that it was only one check, instead of five! 

If you decide to try this, commit to doing it for at least a month.  And please let me know how it affects your life!


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