Oprah and others have long advocated the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. It’s supposed to create mindfulness. And say “thank you” for blessings, even when some days there doesn’t appear to be a single thing to be grateful for. On some cosmic level, it changes our focus from bitching and complaining and wanting, wanting, wanting to understanding (at least momentarily) that we have everything we truly need.
Abraham Maslow defined a Hierarchy of Needs. He knew humans could not strive to the highest level on the pyramid, that being the need for self-actualization, until basic needs like food, shelter, safety, love and belonging were met. In a country like Canada and a province like Alberta, this is not an issue for most of us. The vast majority of us have a roof over our heads, more than enough food, gainful employment, loved ones and good health. Once our basic needs are met, we can appreciate and strive for higher levels of challenge, creativity and learning. We can be grateful.
My own attempts at keeping a gratitude journal have been hit and miss. My January 1, 1998 entry included “Today I’m grateful for 1. The day off 2. A sleep-in 3. Snow at last (but not too much) 4. The Woman’s Retreat Book 5. New doors to keep out the cold.” Sorry, nothing too profound there. The five items and the lead-in line of “today I’m grateful for” are modeled after recommendations from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s bestseller Simple Abundance (1995).
Flipping through my journal, even with its long, long gaps, is a fun, mystifying read. Some entries are so short and cryptic that I have no clue what they mean. All reflect a particular mindset and time in my life. It seems I’ve been grateful for (in no particular order): Roy, Greg and Hilary, Robin Williams, productive meetings, hoarfrost, my mother, Chinese food, talks with a sister, God’s protection on the road, belly laughs, no cavities, scrabble with the kids, books, art, a tax refund, Buddy, great bargains, good health and countless other people, things and events.
The January 14th entry the gratitude journal in Simple Abundance (1995) begins with a Melody Beattie quote:
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. (p. 14)
Focusing on the abundance in our lives rather than what is lacking, “sets in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you,” according to Ban Breathnach (p. 16).
On Thanksgiving Day, we will say a prayer of thanks, sit down to an enormous meal and promptly forget our blessings. It’s time to get back to an attitude of gratitude every day, day in and day out, from where I sit.
Louden, J. (1997). The Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering, and Reawakening Your True Self in a Moment, an Hour, a Day, or a Weekend. New York: HarperCollins.
Ban Breathnach, S. (1995). Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. 10th anniversary edition. New York: Warner Books.