Gratitude: Ways to Keep the Blessings Flowing
The New Year is the usual time for people to come up with a resolution (or a pile of them) towards improving life. These resolutions-- or goals-- have a focus on what is lacking or gone awry, and their correction. You weren't able to take a holiday last year? Well, how about that little chart where you save increasing amounts of money each week, systematically, until the end of the year you have enough to go to Mexico for Christmas? The same with weight-- if I lose X number of pounds each week I will be at my "ideal weight" by July 17th in time to slip into my wedding gown for my 30th anniversary. That sort of thing!
The gyms are full of eager resolution-makers at the beginning of each New Year, and dwindle down to the usual, long-term members by early February. This early New Year optimism is short-lived. Temptation kicks Hope to the curb, and we're back to feeling gloomy and negative within weeks. I'm sorry, but that is just how it is for the vast number of us, whether or not we invested thousands in decoding the Secret or not.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”— ― Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer
The Gratitude Pillow
Not everyone reading this far in this hub will experience resonance with any faith passage from the Bible. And even many who DO believe, and have 'walked with Jesus' for a long time, will be a little bewildered by what seems to be a suggestion that goal-setting is futile, when many of us can list times that people we know-- or maybe even us-- have set goals, accomplished what was set out to attain, and now are leading the most splendid of peace-filled, love-filled, fame-filled, wealth-filled, joy-filled lives.
I am in no way suggesting that you should NOT set goals and strive to fulfill them in this coming year. What I am going to suggest is that besides whatever goals we feel strongly about, we also introduce a strong component of gratitude (or worship, if you come from that perspective) into our lives. You can read the masses of literature out there about the benefits of daily recognition of what you have to be grateful for. I would like to challenge anyone reading this to add in the goal to spend some daily time going over the blessings they already experience, along with the dream boards, coaching workshops, gym memberships and other accoutrements of goal-setting and self-improvement campaigns. I can assure you that if you have an earnest desire to see and record the good that enters your life daily, you WILL see it, and you will also witness a stream of unforeseen blessings that will eclipse the glory of other goals you set.
1. The Gratitude Journal This is pretty self-explaining and widely practiced. Get a book you can write in, or open a file on your computer, and make a daily list of what you are grateful for each day. This is often done upon retiring, but could well be done the next morning about the day before. You can adapt the Journal to be what you want, from the mere listing of 5 items you are grateful for daily, to the journaling of other 'gratitude projects' listed below. This is generally a private and reflective exercise. Some people like to establish a private place set aside just for the journaling, sometimes a special comfy chair or pen. Taking a page from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (sorry for the bad metaphor), some may want to do their journaling on detached pieces of lined paper with a focus on the positives, and put each day's writing into a manila envelope to be re-read at a later time. And, finally, there are many folks who will opt for a Prayer Journal in lieu of a Gratitude Journal, reflecting on their Spiritual walk, and recording prayers they pray, praises, and the answers to prayers.
2. The Facebook Gratitude Challenge - This is one of those Facebook-originated invitations among 'friends' to spend each of 7 days listing what they are most grateful for, and tagging friends to do the same each day. This could likely be done apart from Facebook, over the phone, by email, in person (? novel thought). There is something very touching about having your friends share their blessings with you, and being able to do the same with them. If you want to know the actual mechanics of initiating this "challenge" on Facebook, ask me in a comment and I can send you a link that explains.
The Thankfulness Jar
3. The Gratitude / Thankfulness / Happiness Jar - Start the year off with an empty mason jar with a lid, teeny pieces of paper, and a pen, maybe in the middle of your table. Everyday write down something you are grateful for that day and put it in the jar. Read the contents of the jar at Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve.
4. 7-Day Gratitude Challenge- Unlike the previous projects, this 'challenge' asks that you DO actual appreciative acts to demonstrate your gratitude. Examples are: Day 1, Send flowers to your parent(s), Day 2, Send Handwritten thank-you cards to 5 people you hold dearest and so on. If you are interested in knowing more about this, I can provide you with a link.
5. 30-Day Gratitude Photo Challenge- Do yourself, or do it with family and/or friends. Take photos of various events with a caption around why you are grateful regarding this particular situation. Like photo contests, you could have a Gratitude Theme for each day as well. Post your photos in an online album, blog, Facebook, or in an actual scrapbook or photo album.
6. Gratitude / Thankfulness Tree - This project is great for parents with small kids, or in a classroom or day care. Each day heart-shaped colored construction paper leaves receive a written gratitude and are taped to the large tree and branches outline on a wall. Or, a little more concrete yet, you could be like friends of ours who keep their artificial Christmas tree up all year round and hang gratitude notes from the branches, along with prayers they have prayed for various friends, etc.
7. Loving Service / "Giving Back" - I am often totally gob-smacked by the variety and creativity of those people who "give back" in good works for the thankfulness they feel for some similar kindness or extreme sacrifice made for their benefit. Children who grow up watching significant others showing loving caring for people and the environment will generally grow into adults who volunteer and serve others first throughout their lives. If you haven't been close to anyone like that in your growing-up, don't rule out having mentors in your mature years-- look for people to admire for their kindness and giving unselfishly of themselves. Try out some of what they model. Read biographies of great giving people and reflect on what motivated them. More stories about such folks on Hubpages will be appreciated.