In my family we’ve always cherished being thankful for the things we have. Every year over the holidays we would write down things we were thankful for in a little book. As a generally introspective family, its safe to say that we were more mindful than many about discussing and reflecting on what we have rather than what we don’t have. So when I proposed testing out the idea of a “gratitude journal” it was a welcomed idea, but one which was met with the question – aren’t we already a very thankful family?
It was something I didn’t have an answer to at the beginning of my four month experiment, but one that I believe I better understand now. Periodic specific moments of gratitude and often but more vague periods of reflection are strong for ordering your values and life – but the act of keeping a daily journal about thirty or forty things you are thankful for in a day requires you to undergo a major cognitive shift. It only takes about fifteen minutes. I’ll sit down at my computer. I’ll write the first things that enter my mind. But for those fifteen minutes I can feel waves of peace wash over me like I’ve never known were so easily accessible.
Firmly committing yourself to this as a daily practice proved to keep me centered on present mindedness and focused on being more content with my shortcomings and mistakes. I was a happier person. It has been said that psychologists are in general agreement that gratitude is one of the most important human states of mind for the achievement of happiness. While I am certain there are other essential conditions (the pursuit of virtue, purpose, a strong sense of self all chief among them) gratitude must most certainly be an essential pillar of the path to happiness.
If you make one change this year to bring peace and happiness in your life – challenge yourself to keep a journal of what you are thankful for. Write about the small things, write about the big things, find ways to take the things you normally hate, that have hurt your, or that stand between the achievement of your goals, and find ways to be thankful for them especially.
If you can achieve this meditative practice in your day to day struggles, you will find every area of your life’s project and process benefiting in miraculous ways.