Forgive for being so predictable, in writing about gratitude this week. Since Thanksgiving is nearly here, being thankful is on my mind. It is interesting to me that one day a year, while we fill up on food and togetherness, we pause for gratitude. Of course, thanks to Oprah, most people know about gratitude journals and how important it is to be thankful every day. Researchers have found that writing down a list of positive events at the end of the day makes people happier and healthier. Focusing on what we have, rather than what is lacking in our lives, makes us feel better.
Sure, this all sounds great, in theory. I know every time I’m in the throws of a pity party, and it happens more frequently than I’d like to admit, I’m focusing on how things aren’t going my way. I also know that I have much to be grateful for, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Still, rather than trying to talk myself out of this “poor me” thinking, I’ve started to let myself explore these feelings and spend a little time just feeling sorry for myself.
As part of my mindfulness practice, I’m working to fully embrace all emotions, not labeling them as “good” or “bad,” instead focusing on what lessons I can learn by feeling all my feels. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It isn’t easy, but the break-throughs that have come about as a result, have gone a long way in helping me understand what the actual issues are. Far too often, we try to make ourselves “feel better” immediately, rather than asking ourselves hard questions and exploring what we can do to unravel the real problems.
I’ve tried to keep a gratitude journal. It didn’t work for me. (Maybe you’ve figured that out already!) I just kept listing the same old stuff every time I wrote in it; a roof over my head, my beloved poodle Jack, my family and friends, etc. I do believe micro journaling, like gratitude journals, are important in gaining insight and appreciation. Thankfully there are lots of ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:
It’s easier for me to think about what I love, than what I’m grateful for. And to me, it’s really the same thing. I write down things I love. For you, maybe writing down people and moments that made you happy or helped you works better. Writing about what feels right about your life, in the present moment, can be a good practice on the days that it’s challenging to come up with much more.
My grandmother used a bound calendar planner to write down the highlights of her day every night before she went to sleep. What a great way to reflect! Now that she’s gone, it’s fun to go back and read what made her list, especially when she wrote about things we’d done together.
For people who don’t like to write, or write too much, there are visual journals. Taking pictures of everyday moments that catch your eye can be more meaningful and tell a stronger story than words alone. Visual journals can also be drawings, collages anything else that works for you. (Watch for the art journaling class we’ll be offering at the Finishing School for Modern Women in the spring with Creative Bliss!)
Tip: Writing in a journal every day doesn’t work for everyone. Writing once or twice a week is a great way to get started. There’s something about writing things down that helps us better collect our thoughts. I’ve found that when I feel pressured to write every day, I wrote the easiest answers, and didn’t put much thought into it.
Don’t get me wrong. Being grateful is important. But when we go for the easy answers about what we’re grateful for, they become platitudes, rather than gratitude. They mask the true intention with nice cliques that make us feel like it would wrong to feel any other way. This does not help us own our power. Sure, we’re all happy about the good food and good friends and family we’ll spend Thanksgiving with on Thursday. That’s a given. Let’s dig deeper than that. Beyond being thankful for the obvious, what else can you excavate?
Here are a few of mine. I’m thankful for:
Throwing a pity party. Being uncomfortable makes me look at what I need to change in my life.
The hard times I’ve lived through. They’ve taught me resilience and empathy.
For the times things end up working out for the better, even when it wasn’t exactly how it was intended to work out.
For broken hearts, because to have one it proves a capacity for love, which is a good thing.
It is important to count our blessings, and be appreciative of who and where we are. But I also believe we need to fess up, and acknowledge what isn’t working, and stop ignoring the elephant in the room. Sometimes just looking that beast in the eye, is enough to help you see what needs to change and hints about how to make it happen.
Researching, writing and collaborating with co teachers on the classes at the Finishing School, along with the wisdom we share when we’re together, have helped me see my life in a different way. I have grown over the past two years and I am thankful for that.
I am especially grateful to you, for supporting my mission to help women be smarter and stronger together, so we fully embrace our power. Seeing your growth and being part of that is humbling. I look forward to breaking exciting new ground and learning more with you in the upcoming year! Wait until you see what I have planned.