Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gratitude - Count your blessings instead of sheep

I don't know about you, but it seems I've signed up to receive a boatload of life advice, delivered conveniently right into my email inbox every day. Another week, another person trying to teach me 10 basic habits to a better waistline, 5 yoga moves to welcome big money into my life, 3 low calorie dishes I can whip up while I walk the get the idea.

A lot of times I'm so overwhelmed the healthiest thing I can do it hit the delete key. 

But a few months ago, I clicked through to an article about cultivating an attitude of gratitude (I don't remember which one, but I suspect it was very like this one from the website Mind Body Green). 

For some reason, the idea of a gratitude journal struck me as an easy activity to help me remember my blessings, big and small. To remind myself that the moment might be tough, but my life overall is rich and abundant. 

I started out very hit or miss, letting time elapse between entries. Before too long, though, I developed an addictive daily habit. I now place my journal on my pillow after making the bed each morning and when it's time to go to sleep, like a magnet, my hand shoots to the journal, eager to jot down the moments of grace that helped me make it through the day. To keep it simple, I stick to three items (but with room for wiggling for additions when the spirit moves me). I try to make people and events my focus, over things (but things do count!). 

A bonus gratitude feedback loop: Occasionally I tell folks they've made an appearance in the pages of my journal and why. Letting them know what they mean to me gives them a little boost, which makes me smile, which makes me grateful all over again that they are in my life. Score!

A sample entry might look like:

  • I am grateful for the shared laughter of my R8 peeps, Candy, Evie, Lisa, Marjanna, Misha, and Nichole. 
  • I am grateful for the midday walk and talk with my coworker, Rachel. 
  • I am grateful for the sound of joyful cathedral bells serenading my afternoon work. 

How about you? Do you count your blessings instead of sheep? What three things are you grateful for today? 


  1. This is totally lovely. :-) With all the irritations that can occur in the course of a day, it's so important to focus on and take note of the good things that happen. I've always tried to keep a journal, but I'm pretty lax about it (like I am with all my writing, lol). You've inspired me to try again, and to start with things I'm grateful for. This post will be at the top of the list today! :-)

  2. I love this, Keely. I'd found a similar thing helpful during a particularly hard time in many years ago. Then, I realized just acknowledging the things I can be thankful for was a great boost. Even if the only thing I could think of that day to be thankful for was the sun shining or the birds singing. I truly do believe that we cultivate a joyful attitude. A positive, thankful heart doesn't just happen, it's hard work. So thanks for the reminder. A journal is a lovely idea. Here's to our gratitude-health check. ;0)

  3. After my husband died, a friend whose husband had been murdered recommended gratitude. It's not a balance, she said; the fact that the sun is shining doesn't make it okay that your husband is died, but the sun is still shining. I do well with structure, and so I decided that every time my car started (even though it had been years and years since I had driven iffy cars), I was going to stop and be grateful. It was simple; it had nothing to do with my husband; it was just something to be really glad about. I did it faithfully for about three months, and it seems to have rewired my brain. I can go to gratitude much more easily now. When I get off-track with my life and wonder if it is time to go back on an anti-depressant, I always try a couple days of gratitude therapy before taking a pill.

  4. Misha - the key to this not being an irritation for me has been to make sure this isn't another task I *have to* do, but something I look forward to. I don't kick myself if I miss a day (but I might list FOUR things the next time I add an entry).

    Mac - yes, exactly, a gratitude health check! A nice way to put it.

    Kathy - thank you for sharing that. I love how you are able to make gratitude practical.

  5. Hi Keely,

    Thanks for sharing this! I'm always struck that you do this before bed...and it is such a great thing to do. But sometimes at night, it can be easy to say, "Oh, I didn't get to that task today. I didn't make enough progress on this." I know I think it sometimes even if I don't say it! Gratitude can be easier to come by when the sun is shining. Thanks for reminding me it can be there in the dark, too.