Friday, February 18, 2011

Sue Weaver: Gratitude

“Find the good and praise it.” — Alex Haley

I’m grateful for this view from our ridge.

We read a lot about gratitude these days; how cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps de-stress us and draw more abundance into our lives. But do you do it? Do you keep a gratitude journal to refer to when things aren’t going right and you need a reminder to get you through the day? I do.

Coming from a family where depression is the norm, I had to learn, early on, how to chase the blues. I began journaling in my thirties, keeping a running list of “happy things” at the back of each journal to reread when I was feeling sad. A few years ago, when life was in a downward spiral, I copied the lists into their own fat, hardback book. It was a revelation — so much to be grateful for! Now I keep track of my daily thoughts and blessings in my regular journal, then pull my gratitude journal off the shelf and update it on a monthly basis. Keeping a gratitude journal makes a profound difference in my life. It could yours, too.

A long-time helpmate

My journal is not a thing of external beauty, just a thick, plain-covered, large-format blank book of the sort you can buy at any stationery store. If you like pretty things, buy a fancier blank book or any of dozens of ready-made gratitude journals on the market. Or try Patricia M. Poole’s free, 44-page gratitude journal; it’s a 3.38 MB download, but very nice. Investigate online gratitude journals (google “online gratitude journal”) or create your own Word document and keep a daily file like mine.

Set a goal of adding X number of items to your list every day (my minimum is six), but go with as many additional entries as you can think of. At first it may seem hard, but keep trying. Feel free to repeat items from previous days’ lists if you want to; the object isn’t to amass an impressive list but to help focus on what you have.

Beautiful goats

I like to begin each item with “I’m grateful for” or “I’m thankful for,” but plain numbered lists are fine. They can be big things (“I’m grateful for the nice, fat check that came in today’s mail”) or very small ones indeed (“I’m grateful duct tape worked when I temporarily fixed the sole on one of my barn shoes this morning”).

If you like, decorate your gratitude journal with photos, newspaper clippings, cartoons, inspiring quotes, or anything else that’s likely to make you smile. I still miss life in Minnesota, so I copy and paste uplifting posts to the St. Paul Pioneer Press’s Bulletin Board feature in my journals.

Then, when you’re feeling utterly, horribly rotten and you think nothing is right in your life, you can haul out your gratitude journal and reread it. This is an eye-opening exercise that can change your life.

And you can share the joy with family or friends by creating personalized gratitude journals as gifts. Buy or make a blank journal with a beautiful cover and a personalized cover page. List the ways you’re grateful for having the recipient in your life, adding photos and memories of your time together if you like.

Another great way to focus on the good things in your life is to recount them as you drift off to sleep. This is a great exercise for semi-insomniacs (like me), and it definitely beats counting sheep.

And winsome lambs

So try it! Commit to journaling for a 6-week period. Then review your journal, and reflect how your life has changed for the better. You’ll find you’re focusing more on positive experiences and blessings than lack and problems. It worked for me. It’ll work for you, too.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thornton Wilder

“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.” — Ralph H. Blum

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” — Buddha

Even thistles are good if you have the right attitude.

Sue Weaver sold her first freelance article in 1969. Since then her work has appeared in major horse periodicals, including the Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Chronicle of the Horse, Flying Changes, Horseman’s Market, Arabian Horse Times, the Appaloosa News, the Quarter Horse Journal, Horse’N Around, and the Brayer. She has written, among other books, Storey’s Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock, The Donkey Companion, and The Backyard Goat, to be published in 2011. Sue is based in the southern Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.

Visit my Dreamgoat Annie Web and The Mopple Chronicles

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