We’ve all heard that expressing gratitude creates optimism and can have a positive effect on our immunity, physical and mental well-being and even improve our quality of sleep. We’re supposed to write down a gratitude list everyday. For the past 5 years, one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to keep a gratitude jar or journal and write something down everyday.
It lasted 5, maybe 6 days. Expressing gratitude on paper everyday became a task and that task got pushed back to the back of the line behind all of the other tasks I needed to complete each day. When I would remember (or feel guilty), it was usually generic:
I’m thankful for my family.
I’m thankful for my husband.
I’m thankful for a roof over my head.
I’m thankful for my friends.
Task complete. It felt good seeing those little pieces of paper pile up in the jar, but they lacked depth, sincerity and authenticity. Anyone could have written those. And just about everyone does.
It all changed around March of this year. The boys were having meltdowns, the girls were sick, Ryan was out of town..I was maxed out. I locked myself in the bathroom and brought my gratitude jar with me, hoping that reading through all of the things I was grateful for would get me out of this dark hole.
“I’m thankful for my kids.” LIES. (In that moment anyway.)
“I’m thankful for my husband.” MORE LIES. I’M FURIOUS THAT HE’S OUT OF TOWN.
I kept pulling out pieces of paper and kept feeling worse. I might as well have used it as toilet paper. They told me absolutely nothing about why I was thankful for those things. So on the floor of the bathroom, I started writing furiously. At first, it was pure sarcasm.
“I’m grateful that this bathroom door has a lock on it so that everyone can leave me alone.”
“I’m grateful that I get to enjoy a fancy home-cooked meal Chef Boyardee style while Ryan is eating a steak right now.”
“I’m so thankful that my snot doesn’t stick to this bathroom floor. One less thing to clean.”
In the middle of all that crying and rage thanking, I started giggling. Then I started laughing which made me feel joy. So I kept writing, only this time I was more specific.
“I’m glad I get to see Jack’s toothless grin everyday. It makes me smile.”
“I’m thankful that Emmie wants ME to sing her special song before bed every night.”
“I’m grateful that Sophie can find the humor in every situation.”
“I’m so grateful that Luke says ‘Momma’ now.”
“I’m grateful that Ryan is a hands-on dad and my teammate. This ship runs much more smoothly when he’s here.”
Those messages resonated with me. Those were the things that, if I was ever in a rut again, would lift my spirits, bring a smile to my face or even make me laugh. They were real. They were specific. They were true. And they sounded like me. I even kept the sarcastic ones because, to this day, they crack me up.
So keep a gratitude list or don’t?
Having a gratitude jar has definitely made me more optimistic. More importantly, it’s the first thing I grab when I take a mommy time-out in the bathroom. It helps me get into a more positive frame of mind.
If it’s based on how you truly feel versus how you think you “should” feel, it’s a pretty powerful tool. How often you add to it is up to you. Mine is not scheduled. I jot notes down when they come to mind or when positive things happen. I also write them down when something bad happens so that I can make fun of the ridiculousness of it later on.
So if expressing gratitude more often is a resolution of yours, it will be more powerful if your words are specific and honest. Don’t turn it into a chore. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write down 5 things every morning. Anything is always better than nothing. Start with, say, one each month and build from there. The more fun you have with it, the more you’ll want to do it.
Need some ideas? I shared some of my notes from my gratitude jar on FB Live! (Not gonna lie, it’s pretty funny). Check it out:
So what about you? Do you keep a gratitude jar? How about a list? Let me know how you express gratitude!