Exercising the Gratitude Muscle

◼︎MIND, BODY & SOUL

Some time ago I started keeping a Gratitude Journal. My intent was to pay attention to the good things and be happier. I do everything electronically so I installed the Thankful app on my iPhone. There are other apps, or I could have used a note pad or paper journal. Even a matchbook. The medium doesn’t matter. Anything will do!

After the first few days I seldom wrote anything. I was surprised recently to look back and see I didn’t even enter a note marking gratitude for my apparent clean bill of health after cancer radiation. Now that clearly was cause for major gratitude!

It’s funny — sort of — that most all of us spend a great deal of time thinking in our heads about our lives. The National Science Foundation estimates that in a single day as many as 50,000 thoughts flow though our head — with about 80% of these being negative.1https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/80-our-thoughts-negative-control-them-magsud-rahmanov/ That’s a lot of negative thinking!

We tend not to focus on the good things because they don’t challenge us. They slide by easily. That spoonful of sugar Mary Poppins spoke of is enjoyable but we’d probably give it only passing noice. If she gave us a spoonful of castor oil, that would grab our attention! The next day it’s far more likely we’d be remembering and telling people about the castor oil than about the sugar.

Clinging to the negative thoughts wouldn’t be so bad except that doing so makes us unhappy. And it’s not necessary. We can re-train our minds.

So back to my Gratitude Journal…

I didn’t enter anything yesterday. Thinking about that this morning, almost instantly five things came to mind that I could have written.

  1. I was very happy yesterday when David & I finalized plans with the designer for a complete kitchen renovation later this summer. This is very exciting.
  2. I received DVDs I had ordered for the old TV series 77 Sunset Strip. I love watching old TV shows from my youth and this was a particular favorite.
  3. I very much enjoyed watching the film CODA after dinner with David last night. I enjoy this weekly tradition we have together, plus it was truly a beautiful film.
  4. David bought the tulips pictured above while we were shopping yesterday, and they’re beautiful.
  5. David is constantly doing little things like this. Each adds just a small touch, but taken together over time these are expressions of love that make our home warm and comfortable.

None of these are extraordinary events. They won’t make the papers. But they are the kind of truly nice things that are sprinkled through our days and they make a big difference — if we pay attention. Stopping to recognize things like this and enjoy a quick moment of gratitude feels good. Make this recognition a habit, and feeling good can become a habit too. Happiness can become a habit.

Like any new skill or habit, its strength and durability comes through practice and repetition. Like going to the gym, you have to exercise the gratitude muscle.


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