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A new year is always a good time to try new habits. Gratitude is a good habit to have and it definitely can take practice. I first learned about gratitude journals many years ago when I first read Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach back in 1995.
The purpose of gratitude journals is to write down 3-5 things you are grateful for each day. It has an effect on the brain because you go about your day differently if you are actively looking for things for which to be grateful.
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude activates parts of the brain that affect our metabolism, stress, and behaviors, as well as hormones that regulate body temperature, emotional responses, sleep, and appetite.
Those are a lot of positive effects from one habit! 🙂
I think there is a difference between gratitude and a term you may have heard, “toxic positivity.” Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult the situation, a positive attitude should be maintained and projected. This can lead to a cheerful façade.
I have a couple of good friends who are like this and sometimes I just want to shake them and say, “Stop it, Pollyanna! This is ME you’re talking to! You can admit that you’re discouraged!” But they are not the type to be deterred. So I have never shaken either one of them. 🙂
I’m a realist and have never been mistaken for a Pollyanna. If you’re not familiar with Pollyanna, she is the main character of a classic children’s book by the same name.
She has a blindly optimistic attitude about life, developed from playing the “glad game” during her childhood, where she would always look for something to be glad about. But even Pollyanna’s outlook is difficult to sustain as she encounters challenges.
The people she has influenced come to her aid to lend her their support and optimism when she needs it most.
Since I’m not generally viewed as a Pollyanna, I was a little bit amused when my daughter told me to “stop with the toxic positivity” when she had her senior year of college abruptly canceled in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic was at its gnarliest.
I was trying to help her see the positive aspects of this very challenging time. Apparently, I said, “…at least…” a lot.
Like, at least this happened at a time when students can work remotely. If this had happened when I was in college we would have been out of luck.
Or, even if you don’t get to have a ceremony, at least you actually get to graduate.
Helpful stuff like that. 🙂
She told me that my “…at least…” statements made her feel like I was minimizing the magnitude of everything they had lost. That was certainly not my intention. I feel TERRIBLE for anyone who was a senior in 2020.
One young friend of ours received her doctorate degree in a drive-thru ceremony in a parking garage, for heaven’s sake.
But I do see her point.
My daughter did understand that I was trying to help by pointing to some positives to grab onto. But she was also right that my approach made her feel like I didn’t think what she was going through was a big deal. So I have learned that some people need to sit with things for a while and I should keep my “…at least…” to myself in most cases. 🙂
I think practicing gratitude can help speed up the process when we find ourselves in challenging situations. If we go through our days looking for something positive to be grateful for, we will navigate life differently, actively seeking those gifts we are given each day.
Some days are tough. No question. Sometimes our list might only be that we are grateful we have food, clothing, and shelter. And that’s okay!
We don’t have to be racking up huge things each day to add to our list. That isn’t the point of the practice. In fact, many of the things we can be grateful for are often very small.
Like getting a front-row parking space when it’s raining. Or having a fireplace on a cold evening. Or a really good cup of coffee.
The point is to look for and record things that happen to you every day that can be a source of gratitude. And everyone’s list is their own.
Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to keep track of all of your gratitude and is really satisfying to read at the end of a year to see all the things you have to be grateful for in your life.
I have a Gratitude Journal that I created to record all that gratitude! There is a paperback version and a hardback version.
- 52 week journal
- A gratitude quote for every week
- Space to record daily gratitude
- Space for thoughts, journaling, notes, or just creative ideas
- Dates are left blank so you can start using it whenever you want
- 6 x 9 inches
- 105 pages
This is one of my favorite quotes. I do love Piglet. 🙂
If you are interested in starting out this year by practicing gratitude, I would love for you to take a look at my Gratitude Journal. I hope it helps!
And I’d love for you to follow me on Pinterest!
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