I write a lot every week. I’ve got a novel in progress, and during November, I try to binge on it (I’m currently behind in my NaNoWriMo word count, but I’ve added a scene almost every day since the start of the month). I also keep a journal, post on my blog, stay in touch with friends by email, and do morning pages (more on those in an upcoming post). But the most important writing I do is keeping a gratitude journal.
Both “keep” and “journal” are inappropriate words for me to use in that sentence. I write my gratitude on scraps of paper, frequently on the reverse of to-do lists that are finished. And I never hang on to them, or even read them over. I write them down and into the recycle bin they go. And that’s the way it works for me. The single important thing is the act of writing down what I’m grateful about.
Feeling gratitude is one of a small number of things proven by researchers in “positive psychology” to increase happiness. And that’s about half the reason that feeling gratitude is important: to feel better. And the other half, honestly, is to make the world a better place.
I’m not an outwardly-focused person, or a humble person. Writing down my gratitude is a corrective for both those things. I recognize and acknowledge how other people have helped me, and how there are things in the world that I love, and that I wouldn’t be as successful as I am if the universe wasn’t providing an invisible platform of support for everything I do.
I do it with a pen. I don’t stop until the page is full. Certain people get a mention every time — whether it’s near the top or near the bottom of the page may depend on what’s on my mind at that moment. I quite often write them at night, after I get into bed. But I might do one any time, if the sense comes over me that I’m not in balance and I might need to feel a sense of appreciation and love and blessing.
I have so much to be grateful for, and it’s not the purpose of this blog to make those things public, but it is hugely important to me that I know those things myself. A few nights ago I was waiting to fall asleep, after I had already written a page of gratitude notes and tossed it into the bin, I began to be flooded with dozens of other names and images. People who have been in my life, who have helped me in some way with friendship or who have perhaps strengthened me with their antagonism. So many beautiful human souls, starting with my parents and sisters and grandparents and my very first childhood neighborhood friends. I tried to slow myself down and let them flow through me in a systematic way, year by year, remembering people I went to school with, teachers, friends of the family. And for each face, I tried to feel a moment of gratitude and send a blessing. Immersing myself in the memories of all these people who were part of my life, one after another…
It took me two hours to get up to 1990, and that’s where I started again the next night.