Over the last few weeks, I have been consistently practicing my gratitude journaling (writing down at least five things for which I am grateful that day) each night before I go to bed. It’s been five weeks now of daily recording of the things that I am grateful for from the day, and I am intrigued by what I am observing of my practice and it’s effect on me.
Although recording the things I’m grateful for at the end of the day works well in the sense that it helps me reflect on the day from the perspective of gratitude, the timing of this tends to make it feel more like a chore most nights. It’s the one thing standing between me and sleep as I head to bed. I’m exhausted (still adjusting to the new sleep schedule), my mind is foggy, and trying to come up with a thoughtful, comprehensive list at that point often feels like more than my poor brain can do. And it seldom inspires much sense of gratitude in me at the moment that I am writing.
That all makes it sound like a practice that isn’t useful, doesn’t it? I have tended to think that myself in those moments when I’m keeping my eyes propped open just long enough to finish my list for the day. But that’s not the whole story.
Although I don’t experience a great deal of gratitude while I am writing out my list (and not infrequently somewhat resent the few moments the practice takes away from my sleep), I am catching myself being more aware of moments of gratitude throughout the day. I am much more aware of little things in the moment that I am thankful for. Things like:
- a delicious bite of food
- an inspiring quote that makes me stop and think
- a beautiful picture
- the greenness of the grass
- a comfortable pair of jeans
- the amazing amount of information available to me on the Internet
- the cool bite in the air
- a safe commute to/from work
- an unexpected email, call, or FB comment from a friend
- my favorite slippers
- rain (especially after this summer’s drought)
- a hot cup of tea
- the fact that I can read and write
- a good night’s sleep
- the amazing way my body works
- a warm jacket
- the way my cats make me laugh
- my health
- beautiful sunrises that take my breath away as I drive to work
- that I can afford to own books
- running water (and indoor bathrooms!)
- and so many, many more
I am surrounded by so many things that are incredible blessings, things that I so often take for granted without even noticing them. So while my brain often struggles to think of things to add to my list as I am sitting in bed at night fighting to stay awake for just a few minutes more, it’s obviously shifting my awareness so that I’m noticing in the moment more often those things for which I am grateful.
In particular, I am noticing how things that I normally would take for granted but have been without for some time (like rain during the drought) are now occasions for an outpouring of gratitude. It’s normal that being without something makes me appreciate it more when it returns, but the strength with which I am experiencing gratitude for these things now is greater than what I have normally experienced in the past. For example, we are experiencing thunderstorms (complete with very heavy rain and hail) this evening, and as I stood watching the rain a little while ago, I found myself in awe of the fact that rain happens at all. How amazing is it that water falls out of the sky to water the land this way! And how seldom do I take the time to notice and appreciate the miracle that it is.
I’m equally in awe of the fact that spending a few moments each night writing down just a few things that I am grateful for in a hurried attempt to finish a last chore before I go to bed could have such a profound impact on how I experience life the rest of the day … especially when the practice has so little positive impact in the moment. That is at least as much a miracle as the rain!
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