The guest writing continues with another dear friend of mine, Juanita. This is the friend I mentioned a a couple of weeks ago, who thoughtfully handed me the gratitude journal all those years back, and inspired me to start being thankful. We connected again recently and I was reminded of how special she is. Another who I like to chew the fat with about anything and everything, living in different cities we don’t get to spend much time together. Juantia has recently been through transitions of marriage, baby and new house, when we spoke I asked her to add a few words to the gratitude theme and she gracefully accepted. I loved that when she reflected on the experience of writing this piece, that she got her hubbie involved – she asked him the final question she asks you, and it also spurred conversations with her other friends, about appreciating more than the tangible things we ‘own’ in life and looking at what is really important. I encourage you to participate in the exercise and also pass onto others you feel may benefit from it.
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I am in the process of moving house as I write this, and there’s nothing like being displaced from your usual pod of comfort to make you start thinking about what you’d be grateful for in terms of creature comforts. This got me thinking about what I am grateful for in my life in general, in the bigger picture. What are we all generally grateful for? How does this ‘bigger picture gratitude’ evolve? More importantly, how do we make contact with this readily, on a daily basis (and not just when something upsetting or tragic happens to make us evaluate our lives)?
For me it started with a gratitude journal well over a decade ago. One of my friends gave me one and I was to find out that it held a very simple, yet powerful force. This journal was filled with inspirational quotes and at the end of each day you wrote down five things you were grateful for about that day. On some days, I had wonderful things to report, and on other days it was the very simple, everyday things I wrote about. As a teenager and young adult I was prone to depression, and at times, the only thing I wrote was that I was grateful I woke up that day or that the bad day was over. At the start of my first journal, I often struggled to find five things a day to be grateful about, however I very soon discovered that by looking, not that deep, I could identify the small, simple things I kept overlooking.
A lot of the time when you ask people what they are grateful for, their replies tend to include the big picture things such as family, health, friends, jobs, and so on. However, it’s just that we don’t always have the ready ability to look at the big picture and at these big things a lot of the time unless we are prompted in some way. For example, when we see the news and hear about a natural disaster overseas, we tend to pull ourselves out of our funk (if we are in one) and express gratitude for our personal living situation. What I personally found cultivated this ‘bigger picture gratitude’ and also allowed me to readily access it on a nearly daily basis (I am still practising gratitude and certainly don’t have all the answers), was being in touch with and not overlooking the small, simple, and often mundane things in my daily routine. For example, having enjoyed my hot, whole cup of tea this morning without interruption from my one-year-old son. Having the opportunity for daily focus on the simple things in my day has been a major influence in my life that has changed me for the better.
You often hear about the need to think about the glass being half full compared to half empty. This is easier said than done. For me, the simple task of keeping the 5 dot-point gratitude journal (which I viewed as pointless, annoying and arduous at times) has, over the years, allowed me to achieve just this on the majority of days to date. Over the years, the purchased gratitude journals would be replaced with pretty journals, then pretty and plain notebooks, scraps of paper and whatever else lay next to my bed, and finally, evolved to being kept in my head, however the task doesn’t always get completed for obvious reasons. That reminds me, first, that I need to find a log of some sort to start writing down my dot points again, and second, the purchased journal used to be a favourite gift to give and I haven’t bought one for quite a while. In a society where the focus can sadly be on wanting more, bigger, better, it can be a wonderful gift to give someone in our lives who we view as having everything. How many of those people do we know, and how hard and frustrating is it to buy them something?! Mind you, you can also buy or make a journal of your own to gift.
While I leave you to contemplate gratitude in your own life, if you are not doing so already, I invite you to start a gratitude journal of your own tonight, with five dot points. Keep this for a month, then review the process and effect doing this has had on you (if any).
Before I finish, one last thing to mull over, if today you lost all your earthly possessions except for the clothes you are wearing right now, what would you be grateful for? Big question, I know. Your answers tell you much about what you truly value in life. If there are areas of your life you are neglecting or are not in touch with as much as you would like to be, I invite you to get to it, prioritise them; and more importantly, prioritise the people in your life who you are most grateful for.
Wishing you all the best.