An exercise in gratitude

Dear Daughter,

A while back, I wrote about how to be grateful even when you’re not. Today I’d like to expand on that, by introducing some exercises to keep gratefulness top of mind.

My friend Cary recently started writing a blog called Unrequited Bob, where he lists three things for which he is grateful, plus a brief description of a positive experience he had that day. He also is intentional about committing at least one random act of kindness every day and he writes about that as well. His blog has been an inspiration for me. As a reader, it’s been cool to see how Cary always manages to find things to be grateful for, even on what would normally be considered a bad day.

Cary’s blog reminds me of the gratitude journal I used to keep. My mom learned from Oprah that keeping such a journal does wonders for one’s mental health, so she bought me and my sister journals, where we wrote five things for which we were grateful every day. It wasn’t overly time-consuming. I usually just wrote one sentence for each item. (“I’m grateful that I had pizza for dinner.”) But it turns out ol’ Oprah was right, as usual (*eye roll*). I began searching for things throughout the day that I could add to my journal and was surprised at how easy it was. Oftentimes I listed more than five! Sometimes the items were basic (aka, the aforementioned pizza) and others were true breakthroughs for me. Most of them were things I might not have noticed if I weren’t keeping the journal.

Tangible exercises like Cary’s blog and my gratitude journal really change the way you look at your day. Instead of brooding about the few bad things that may have happened, you focus instead on the many blessings in your daily life. And once you realize just how blessed you are, it changes your whole perspective on life. Plus, gratitude is contagious. Other people will notice a change in you, and they’ll want that for themselves.

Whether it’s a blog like Cary’s or a gratitude journal like mine or some other variation, I hope you’ll be intentional about searching for the goodness in your life and documenting that goodness in some way. It’ll benefit you in more ways than you can imagine. And for that, you can be grateful.



It’s the little things…

It’s Thanksgiving! My favorite holiday! I’ve always said that Thanksgiving is like the humble middle child of all the holidays. It’s quiet, unassuming, not wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of consumerism. Plus, food is the highlight. You just can’t go wrong when food is the highlight!

I already talked about the big-picture things I’m thankful for in yesterday’s post, so today I’m going to focus on life’s little perks that make me happy…

1. Green tea (and tea in general). I’m not a coffee drinker, and I’ve always felt kind of left out because of that. There’s something soothing about cupping your hands around a warm beverage. So I’m glad there’s an option (a healthier one, too!) for us non-coffee folks.

2. ┬áMy two new favorite TV shows: Parenthood and Up All Night. I probably get a little too excited when there’s a new episode of either of these shows on my DVR. And speaking of…

3. DVR. It’s a godsend. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a full list of great TV shows just waiting to be watched, and without the commercials. It’s better than going to the movies!

4. Those insulated cups that have a lid and straw. I always have to have a glass of water near me, otherwise I get anxious. So I’ve always used a plastic cup and straw. Now they make those nice insulated cups that keep the water cold, and with a built-in straw! A genius invention… my only lament is that I didn’t think of it first.

5. Blankets. No matter the time of year, a blanket serves as a form of comfort unlike any other.

6. HTML code. This is super geeky and I am by no means a web expert, but I do know a decent amount of HTML code. It is so cool to type in letters and symbols that turn into punctuation and other formatting tools. It’s like a secret language! All you other web peeps out there, can I get a holla? (I’m sounding super vanilla right now, I know.)

7. Hair straighteners. I simply don’t know how I survived 20-some years of my life without one.

8. Sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, Diet Coke and wine. These are my absolute favorite foods/drinks. I could eat/drink them every day of my life and still love them just as much as I do now.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. It’s fun, though, to think of the perks that get you going throughout the day. Makes life a bit easier, more satisfying.

What “little things” are you grateful for today?

How to be grateful even when you’re not

Dear Daughter,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, as the name suggests, this holiday is all about giving thanks, about looking at your life and recognizing the things for which you are grateful. It’s so awesome that we get a day off, filled with lots of good food, to celebrate something as simple as giving thanks. On the other hand, it’s kind of sad that we get a day off, filled with lots of good food, to celebrate something as simple as giving thanks. We should be grateful every day; why do we need a big national holiday to remind us?

But we’re human. And we’re American. And even though we’re easily the most blessed nation in the world, we often take our blessings for granted. We haven’t experienced much hardship; goodness and abundance are all we know. So sometimes we need a reminder that this is not the norm, that we truly are incredibly fortunate people.

This is something that’s been resonating with me pretty deeply this past week. I’ve been throwing quite the pity party for myself lately. I’m overwhelmed with all the things I have to do in the next month, both at work and at home, and I’ve been bitter about the fact that I have to work at all. I’m not happy with my appearance, and I’m annoyed that I have so much “stuff” in the house and I don’t know where to put it.

And yet, when I turn the lens around, I see a whole new picture. The reason I have so many things to do in the next month is because I’m having a baby, which is a miracle in and of itself, something that many women dream of doing but are unable to. I have a stable, secure, well-paying job while hundreds of thousands of people have been out of work for months, even years. I may not look as svelte as I’d like but that’s because I’m nearly 8 months pregnant (which, again, is amazing), not because I have any physical abnormalities or anything. And all of that “stuff” in our house? So much better than having nothing at all, which is a reality for far too many people.

Plus, when I cry about how miserable I think I am, I have a husband and a daughter to comfort me, wipe away my tears and make me smile again. Just having that alone is enough to fill up my gratitude bank forever, but I have that AND all of these many other blessings. How did I get so lucky?

Daughter, no matter what time of year it is, I hope that you’ll be grateful for what you’ve been given. It won’t be easy at times, when things aren’t going your way or you wish things could be different. During those times, I encourage you to close your eyes and look at your life from a different perspective, from the perspective of one who has nothing and no one. When you do that, you will realize that you have blessings coming out of your ears, and gratitude will fill your heart so full you won’t know what to do with it.