Observing my gratitude practice

This marks the end of the my second week of consistent gratitude journaling since I’ve gotten re-started with that practice. It’s been helpful to be doing this again in several ways, and it is very interesting to observe the process, the things that make it on my list, and the effect that it is having on me.

I’m already noticing that this is becoming a habit. It’s easier to remember to do each day, and I’m finding myself mentally making note of things during the day as they happen as things I want to be sure to add to my list that night. In that sense, it’s making me more aware of things I am grateful for throughout the day rather than just at night when I make my list each day.

I still tend to feel each night like the list I’m writing isn’t having much impact in the moment. I don’t feel any better most nights after writing the list than I did before I started, but I am noticing other shifts that are less immediate.

I am already noticing a significant reduction in the amount of gratitude even-though-itis happening as I make my lists. This is not because I’ve been working hard to eliminate it; it’s just fading away as I become more focused on noticing, experiencing, and expressing gratitude. I’m also still noticing how much the practice of re-reading the lists of previous days lightens my mood. Particularly when I review my week in preparation for this weekly post on gratitude, I find such joy in reviewing all of the wonderful things I’ve written down about my week and being reminded how just how much goodness I experienced.

In the past when I’ve used gratitude journaling, I have never included this step of the weekly review. I simply made my daily lists and never looked at them again. So this new addition to the practice—although it was an unintentional byproduct of my plan to write about my gratitude rather than a consciously developed practice—has proven to be an unexpectedly rich benefit in increasing my sense of gratitude and learning more about the things that inspire gratitude in me.

It’s fascinating to begin to notice trends in the kinds of things that appear on my gratitude lists, and it’s a great way to learn more about what makes me happy. The two most frequently mentioned groups of things are those involving nature (rain, a new water-lily bloom, walks outside) and encouraging interactions with other people, both in person and online. Other categories that show up with some regularity include self-care items (naps, good food, hot baths), good news, and personal accomplishments of some kind. It’s giving me a picture of the kinds of things that I would do well to include more often in my life for happier days.

There was one day in particular this last week, however, when my creation of the list had a powerful impact in the moment. It was a really down day for me. I was feeling unusually discouraged, so I began writing my list feeling like it was a waste-of-time chore to be marked off the list so I could go to sleep. But as I wrote my list, more and more things kept coming to mind from that day. My list for that day is longer than my “required” five things, and I even turned the light back on twice because I thought of more things to add after I’d put it away and gone to bed. By the time I finished my list for that day and was drifting off to sleep, my discouragement had faded and I was filled with such joy and gratefulness for my many blessings. It profoundly transformed my mood and outlook in the moment for the better that night.

In general, I’m noticing a greater resiliency in my mood. Things that once would easily have sent me into an emotional tailspin are having a lessened effect. Even when I do allow my mood to become dark, I am bouncing back much faster. And a couple of mental/emotional patterns that I’ve been trying to shift for some time have begun loosening their hold on me without any effort on my part. I’m just noticing that I’m less reactive, more aware, and have greater space to choose healthier options in the moment.

As I head into my third week of this renewed daily practice, I’m looking forward to seeing what other unexpected benefits and learnings this practice will bring. The gifts I’ve received so far more than outweigh the time spent on doing this each day!

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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10 thoughts on “Observing my gratitude practice

  1. After reading your post about the gratitude bracelets and your gratitude journal, I began using a bracelet a new acquaintance gave me as my own gratitude “tool.” The bracelet was a gift that was a surprise to me because I had no idea this person even remotely liked my presence in her life – I knew that my lifestyle challenged her. So the bracelet began as a gracious (and humbling) gift and I thought it fitting to convert it’s beauty to one of reminding me of the other gifts that life gives me on a daily basis (not to mention the stones in the bracelet amplify emotions). How fitting, I thought, that my gratitude be amplified as I listed the offerings the world blessed me with throughout my day. As I close my eyes to sleep each night, I hold each bead in my hand, say my thanks and as you mentioned above, the things I am finding to be grateful for (even the tiniest) are coming unbidden and quicker to my lips. The sleep that follows this ritual has never been as peaceful and restive – cradled in the arms of gratitude. I have needed for some time now, to remember and be gracious for all the beauty of this world. What an incredible gift your ritual has given me. Thank you, KJ.

    • Lisa, I am so incredibly delighted to read your story and to hear how much blessing you have discovered from this practice! And it sounds like you have such a perfect bracelet to be using for this practice with the story behind it. This is so inspiring! I really love your description of the peaceful sleep that you are experiencing as a result of this practice: “cradled in the arms of gratitude.” I know that feeling, and that is such a lovely description of it. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I am blessed to have been a help on your journey with this, and I wish you many more blessings from this practice.

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  5. What a lovely way to enrich your life and the lives of others. And so challenging! Remembering to be grateful is hard, for me anyway. Kind of like exercising, eating healthy food, and taking a break when I’m tired — all things you mention as cheering you up. It’s as if my brain fights these easy acts because it would much rather be chatty and a little bratty, even though time and again, when I make the effort, everything looks brighter. Best wishes, and thanks for the follow.

    • Indeed, my brain fights it too, Julia. But it does seem to become easier when I take the effort to make it a habit, but even that needs constant reinforcement or I easily slip back into the chatty and bratty mode. (Love that description!) Thanks for the comment!

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