I’m going to be cliché today and write about gratitude. The fact that Thanksgiving is this week is a complete coincidence! Actually, this has been on my mind recently, partly because it was the subject of a lesson I substituted for in my daughter’s primary class at church. Thanksgiving being in a couple of days just makes it more appropriate!
Many years ago someone told me about a gratitude journal—a journal you kept where every day you wrote three things you were grateful for. Gratitude/thankfulness is something we talk a lot about in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We’re taught to be grateful for all of the blessings Heavenly Father has given us. But gratitude isn’t just a spiritual concept. It’s part of the field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Randy Kamen wrote an article for the HuffPost about it:
What we have learned is that cultivating personal attributes fortifies us during times of adversity and emotional turmoil and leads to greater happiness and resilience. Moreover, of all the attributes one can develop, gratitude is most strongly associated with mental health.
You can read her full article here.
So I decided to start my own gratitude journal. At the time I was still struggling with the aftermath of my severe postpartum depression which never went away. Finding things to be grateful for during times like that can be a struggle, so I decided to start out writing just one thing each day I was grateful for. Sometimes my entries were of a silly or whimsical nature. I’m grateful for chocolate. (I really, truly am!) I’m grateful for rain in the summer and for cute, little frogs hopping around. (We used to have a bunch of them, and my kids loved finding them in our grass.) I’m grateful for gourmet donuts. [My daughter] and I shared an Oreo donut, and it was so good. (I miss those donuts they used to have at the local grocery store!)
Sometimes I wrote about temporal things. I’m grateful for good people who do good things. (I don’t even remember who I was thinking of when I wrote this, but I am still grateful for the many people in my life who do good things.) I’m grateful for shelter, for a place to live. (This is especially true now with all the disasters going on throughout the world.) I’m grateful for my children. I wish they didn’t grow up so fast.(My baby boy just turned six, and I still wish they didn’t grow up so fast.)
Often times, my entries were of a more personal or spiritual nature. I’m thankful for The Book of Mormon and the peace, comfort and happiness it gives me. I’m grateful for the Spirit that’s with me when I read it. (Something I still feel the same way about.) I’m grateful for the gift of beauty the Sonoran Desert has shown me. (Right about now, I’m really missing it—those warm, beautiful winters and springs.) I’m grateful for love and forgiveness. (Yes and yes.) I’m grateful for words. I’m grateful for the words inside of me. They are my soul. (Something I think about often and am still grateful God helped me to see.) I’m grateful for my Savior. (Something I will always, always be grateful for.)
Keeping a gratitude journal didn’t take away my mental illness, but it did make my life a bit lighter and happier. I would find myself actively thinking about things I was grateful for each day, so I would be able to write something in my notebook. Focusing on those blessings helped keep negative, self-depreciating thoughts at bay. And as time went by I found it easier to write more than one thing I was grateful for—and still have plenty more to add to the next day.
There have been lulls in my writing. The last time I wrote something was over three years ago, but I would like to start doing this again. I talked to my children about it last night, and we decided that each night before we go to bed, we will each say something we are grateful for. I’m going to write it in my journal as well. I challenge everyone reading this to do the same. Start a gratitude journal or at least spend some time each day thinking of what you have to be thankful for. I guarantee it will make a difference in your life!