Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Tibet, you have seen the practice of gratitude being offered all over the place lately. The importance and place of gratitude in our lives has been woven through the great wisdom traditions for centuries. And only the cynical would dismiss the many contemporaries touting the value of a gratitude practice these days–self-help gurus, life coaches, psychotherapists, yoga teachers, religious communities, brain scientists, and of course, Oprah. (The only group I haven’t heard saying much about gratitude is our politicians. Hmmmmm.) And as we approach the winter solstice and the many religious traditions that are honored, contemplated, and celebrated this time of year, we hear even more about the value of cultivating a mindset grounded in gratefulness.
In the Foundational Practices program offered through LifeArt Studio, gratitude is a central practice our coaching clients and workshop participants are encouraged to undertake in a regular and disciplined fashion. (See earlier posts on this topic here). You can read the research and popular articles on this practice if you need data, but the best thing to do is simply try this simple, but transformative practice for yourself for three weeks and use the data from your own life experiment to determine if it’s worth your time.
It’s simple. Buy a notebook. I started my gratitude practice with a humble khaki-colored moleskine 3×5 notebook that I kept on my reading table, and often carried in my purse. The paper was lined, and each morning I wrote three to five things in it that I was grateful for. I put the date on the top line, and as my practice progressed, I listed as many small or large events, details, people, experiences that had happened the day before and for which I was grateful.
Just making the list became a pleasant experience, my heart feeling warm with each item I added to the list. This practice takes 3 minutes, tops. It’s not a cumbersome ritual to add into your day. I’ve found (and so have the researchers) that this practice makes a surprisingly significant difference in my mood, my sense of openness, my willingness to take in the good, and my level of deep satisfaction with my life. I’d say this is a pretty good return on such a small investment of time, money, and energy.
But being a lover of papers and journals, after I filled that first small moleskine notebook, I graduated to another moleskine, this one a bit larger and with a glossy purple cover. But then, eventually, because I am committed to my “750 words” daily online writing program, I started making my lists on the computer. It became a natural preface to my current writing project.
But I have to say, I miss the feel of having a dedicated notebook: the touch of the cover, the smooth paper inviting me to decorate those lines with gratitude. And another thing about having a dedicated gratitude journal is that you can easily go back and check the things you were grateful for a month ago, or a year ago. It’s rewarding to see those pages fill up week after week because they offer hard proof that life is good, change is inevitable, and possibilities abound. I’m tellin’ you, it’s highly therapeutic—and addictive.
Which brings me to the topic of this post—the perfect gift. If you are looking around for a unique and meaningful gift to give this holiday season, how about giving the gift of gratitude in the form of a beautiful journal dedicated to keeping a gratitude list? My good friend and colleague Patricia Charpentier, writing teacher and founder of Writing Your Life, has created and published a beautifully bound journal called the The Five-Year Journal. Each page is divided into five sections of six lines. In the first year of maintaining this journal, you fill only the top section with your list of gratitudes. And then, in 2016 you drop down to the second section, right below the writings you did for 2015. And so it goes for five years.
With this system, you get to see at a glance the things that were bringing you deep pleasure and satisfaction on a specific date over a period of years. It’s just genius, I think. And beginning January 2015, I have a beautiful blue journal ready to begin another year of cultivating a high state of gratitude in my life.
The Perfect Gift for the Special Person
You can purchase these journals, which come in four rich colors, through Patricia’s website. I am not affiliated with Patricia’s publishing venture and get no commission on the sale of her journals. I’m simply a fan, and eager to share this clever system with my community. And maybe, if you’re really good, Santa will bring you your very own journal, too. I hope so!
LifeArt Studio Offers a Happy New Year Gift for You!
If you’d like to boost your gratitude practice and focus (or re-dedicate) your creative energies for the new year, please join me on Saturday, January 24, for a no-cost workshop on the Foundational Practices of LifeArt Studio. You’ll become acquainted with the core principals that drive our work here at LifeArt, principles that create a foundation for living life fully, artfully, and beneficially. The workshop is filling up, and our tiny LifeArt Studio space cannot accommodate the size of the group, so we’ve moved our venue to a beautiful space that will be comfortable and inspiring. If you’d like to join us, please reserve your space here, and I’ll send you details.
And finally, let me say again how deeply grateful I am to the vital community of seekers and creatives and flourishing souls who have gravitated toward our events, workshops, gatherings, and coaching over the last twelve months. I am truly grateful to have each and every one of you in my life.