The psychology of happiness has become a popular field, and experts consistently tell us that a major key to creating happiness in our lives is through gratitude. The ability to appreciate what we have instead of fretting over what we don’t increases our sense of satisfaction and leads us to see the goodness in life more easily from day to day. It also makes obstacles seem less overwhelming.
I consider myself a thankful person, but I know that there is a depth to life of which I am not always aware, comprised of moments that wash over me without barely any recognition on my part. I wanted to experience a deeper sense of wonderment and gratitude towards my world.
I decided to take the experts up on their suggestion and focus on daily gratitude. They say to keep a gratitude journal and write down what you are thankful for every day, so I did. Every evening for a month I reflected on my day and wrote down three things that I appreciated.
The first challenge I encountered was simply remembering to do it, but I stuck with it. I aimed never to repeat the same thing and theorized this would be challenging as well, but almost immediately I noticed that my entries were not as general as I expected. Every day was very different when I looked at them close up, and it was never a challenge to avoid repeating the same subjects over and over when I focused on the details.
The question of what I was thankful for was harder to answer on bad days and I found myself sighing in frustration while staring at the blank journal page. But then I would realize the problem: my attitude. Sure, the bad parts of those days at first glance cast a shadow over my gratitude, but it was up to me to part the clouds and let the light shine through on my day. I simply had to change my focus.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
Inspiration: When it strikes, it’s a creative sigh of relief followed by a rush of excitement.
Music that moves me: I heard a song for the first time that stopped me in my tracks. I could do nothing but listen to it, captivated. The second time I listened to it, it moved me to tears. I’ve listened to it twenty more times since then.
Ghost stories: They are a fun indulgence for my imagination. They can be scary, funny, mysterious, and interesting. I love them all.
Unexpected hugs: I interviewed for a promotion at work and it was nerve-wracking. Afterwards, my co-worker gave me a big hug and told me she was proud of me.
Cozy sweatshirt: I bought this vintage-style soft sweatshirt on a whim and felt guilty about how much I paid for it until I wore it for the first time. I wear it almost every week now. It’s my favorite.
Mistakes: For the first time ever my local Thai food place got my takeout order wrong. The dish they made by mistake looked good though, and it was a dish I had never tried, so I told them not to worry about the error and accepted the food as it was. I ate the entire thing! It was delicious!
1980’s pop music: You have to dance! It’s happy and weird and fun, and the music videos are silly and ridiculous. An ‘80s dance club was the perfect choice for my cousin’s birthday celebration.
Strangers who make extra effort to help: When picking up my dog’s expensive epilepsy medication, the pharmacist showed me how to find an online coupon for the medication that cut the price in half. She even added the coupon information to my account so that the discount applied automatically for refills.
Spaghetti: Sometimes a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese with a glass of red wine is the perfect thing at the end of a rough day.
Challenges: They push me to see things in a new way and to think creatively to find solutions. I learn something with every challenge I face.
As the weeks passed, rather than waiting for the end of the day to reflect on my gratitude, I found myself recognizing those moments in the present and feeling thankful in real time. Some days I had five or six things I wanted to note in my journal. On those days the gratitude swelled in my chest and I felt overcome with emotion. More than once my eyes became teary with happiness.
Ultimately, keeping a daily gratitude journal works. Try it, and see what happens.
I wish for you an abundance of wondrous moments that fill your life and your heart with joy, that give you reasons to wake up and feel happiness every day. They are there already. We just have to be open to seeing them.
Photo via Visual Hunt