Gratitude: It Starts With a List
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ~Epictetus
The most common and ancient advice you hear about developing a practice of gratitude is the idea of counting your blessings. Every positivity book I have ever laid my hands on has a section that encourages making regular, even daily lists of the blessings in your life. Taken to the next step, this daily listing lives in a gratitude journal.
I have had an approach/avoidance relationship to my own little pink gratitude journal that is decorated with a paisley yellow bird. I chose it in one of my inspired moments with gratitude, determined to fill it up with what I promised myself would be my new consciousness of the blessings that fill my life. It is a small, pocket sized book that I began writing in February.
I feel a little embarrassed that there are still so many pages to fill in such a small book. My original plan was to carry it with me in my purse, thinking I would stop throughout my day to jot down moments of gratitude. Lately it sits on my night stand where I recollect feelings of gratitude before I sleep. The book is filling up more regularly now but as I move into this gratitude challenge, I know there is a real and important difference between listing the things I am grateful for and actually feeling them.
Learning how to recollect and experience the felt sense of moments of gratitude takes my full attention in a way that listing my blessings doesn’t. Tapping the soft space inside, where my heart holds the memory of being loved, of loving, of feeling well in myself is akin to feeling deeply blessed, which I think is where gratitude and love are one in the same.
Still, on the many moments when I have no idea how to get to that tender hearted place where I feel in every cell the blessings of my life- making a list is a noble start. It is the mental practice, the promise kept of leaning towards the goodness that we all have in our lives. Aldous Huxley accurately noted that, “most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”
Making a commitment to a gratitude journal or even just scratching notes on the evening paper about our own good is how we begin to overcome this most common human deficiency that keeps us ever looking out there for what must be found inside. If you have never done it before, try today to list five, or heck, even ten things that bless you. It can be as small as finding a parking place or as big as the beauty of an evening sunset. It can be a cold drink on a hot, sticky day or a moment of tenderness with someone you are trying to love. Do this one thing: write it down and acknowledge it.