Several years ago, I was having one of those lovely three-hour bottle-of-wine four-course dinners with a girlfriend who had just started keeping a gratitude journal. She couldn’t stop talking about it.
“It’s changed my life!” she said, explaining how the simple act of writing down what she’s grateful for had opened her eyes to all her blessings.
She wrote in her journal before bed, recording everything that happened that filled her with gratitude that day. And she wrote every morning, too, to set her intention to be grateful all day. She said in just a few short weeks she’d already written over 50 pages!
She was glowing. She really did seem happy and balanced and peaceful in a way I’d never seen her before.
I was so inspired.
The next day, I walked to my local bookstore and got myself a new journal. I even bought a fancy fountain pen, thinking I’d make the experience as special as possible. I wrote in my gratitude journal every day. It was amazing. It changed my life.
For about a week.
Then I got super busy at work and skipped a day. “I’ll write double gratitude tomorrow!” I told myself.
But then I caught a cold and didn’t have the energy for anything but warming up chicken broth and tea. “As soon as I feel better,” I promised myself, “I’ll get back to my gratitude journal.”
But I didn’t.
How lame do you have to be that you can’t make time to write a few paragraphs in a journal every day about all the great stuff in your life? I felt like a total loser. Then I decided to forgive myself.
I still noticed little things throughout my day that I was grateful for … many times I even had the presence of mind to stop for a moment, take a slow easy breath, and give thanks. But writing it all down? It just didn’t work for me.
Until I discovered my gratitude jar.*
It’s so simple, it will take me three sentences to tell you how to do it.
1. Get a jar.
2. Cut up some colored paper into 2-inch squares and put them in the jar.
3. Whenever you feel like it, grab a blank square, write down the date + what you’re grateful for, fold it up, put it back in the jar.
That’s it. Do it whenever the mood comes over you. It’s not a daily chore. It’s not a major commitment. The jar won’t make you feel bad when you look at it (like my near-empty journal did). It will make you happy because it’s colorful and pretty.
Here’s our family gratitude jar. We keep it on our dining room table so if we want to, my husband and stepdaughter and I can add to it when we sit down to dinner.
Some days we do, some days we don’t. It brightens up the table no matter what.
Some sample entries from our gratitude jar:
So you see? It can be a gentle reminder about the big stuff, the profound things we know we should be grateful for. And it can also be a way to capture those little moments when something wonderful and unexpected happens or something strikes you as beautiful or silly.
Here’s the thing: gratitude doesn’t have to be this huge, heart-opening, earth-shattering thing. Sometimes it’s quiet and fleeting. Your gratitude jar gives you a super easy way to record those moments. The bonus is that you’ll probably find yourself noticing things you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Your gratitude jar makes a great conversation piece. Friends and family who come over for the holidays can add their own moments of gratitude to your jar. It’s a unique easy-to-make gift, too, perfect for just about any occasion.
And here’s the best part: whenever you’re feeling blue, just reach into your gratitude jar, pull out a random scrap of folded paper, read it, and voila! An instant pick-me-up. A record of a moment – big or small – when life was good and you were grateful.
When your gratitude jar gets full – and believe me, it will! – make it a celebration. Gather with your family, brew up some iced tea or hot chocolate, empty out the jar, and read all those moments of gratitude out loud together.
There will be shared memories and happy surprises, too … you will laugh, you will cry, it’ll be better than Cats.
Get creative with your gratitude jar. Head on over to Pinterest for some ideas to get you started.
Not convinced gratitude matters all that much? Well, here are some smart people who might change your mind. Read about Yale’s study of gratitude practice and Harvard’s research on the health benefits of gratitude.
Photo Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com
* Much gratitude to my dear friend Rhonda for sharing the idea with me.