Gratitude Journaling: for when we need to bring Grace back into our Lives
Several years ago, I took the free “Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience” that had been advertised all over the internet.
The centering thought of one of the classes was, “When I am grateful, I find my grace.”
At the start of the meditation, Deepak instructed us to think of one thing for which we were grateful. The first thing I thought of was my family and friends. (I know that’s more than one, but I have always felt friends were the family we get to choose.)
As I sat on my deck, the same deck upon which I’d contemplated my own suicide less than a year before, I allowed the warmth of the sun to engulf me and hold me as I concentrated on that thought for the entire 20 minutes.
With each breath I took, I visualized the faces of those I loved: John, Kaylee, Ian, James, my Mom, Tiffany, Aimee, and Laura. These are the people I considered closest and most important to me at the time. These were “my people,” those individuals who were there even when I felt my behavior didn’t warrant them to be.
When the meditation concluded, there were journal questions you could answer, the first one of which was, “What does grace mean to you?”
Webster’s dictionary defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification,” i.e. God’s grace.
My answer was a bit more simplistic. To me, grace meant forgiveness and freedom through the forgiveness of others and forgiveness of self.
Throughout my life, whenever I considered the word grace, I always envisioned something light and airy, like a ballerina, an image which was in stark contrast to me—for in the past 49 years, as a ballerina, I would have been Mikhail Baryshnikov’s worst nightmare with two lead feet. Yet, today, I am becoming that ballerina, in a sense, by forgiving others and forgiving myself, essentially lightening the burden and load I have been carrying all this time.
Anger and grudges weigh us all down so much and over the course of my life, they have worn me out. The energy my grudges demanded exhausted me, and the anger I once saw as my power really only darkened my existing depression. But not anymore!
Today, I am unloading those burdens like a farmer baling hay and becoming as light as the dust that disperses into the air with each bail that lands in the trailer.
In order to find grace, however, one must first be grateful and as such, Deepak’s journal questions proceeded to ask you to name the people in your life you are most grateful for and list one specific thing about each person for which you are thankful.
Here’s what I wrote at the time:
"John not only loves me at my best and wants my best for me, but he loves me at my worst as well. He has seen me through the darkest time in my life and never gave up on me. Some would say that is what a husband is supposed to do, and maybe it is, but many out there would not have been so patient and steadfast, and I will be forever thankful that he is my husband, my best friend, and my soulmate.
Kaylee reminds me every day that despite extreme adversity, you still have the ability to go on if you make your mind up to do so. My daughter is an inspiration to me every day and I hope she knows just how much she makes me want to be a better person.
I am grateful for my son Ian, because he is a truly kind and gentle being, a genuinely good soul, and despite my difficulties, is a daily reminder that I did something right as I was raising him.
I am thankful for my youngest son, James because he reminds me daily to hold onto my youth, my curiosity, and joy. His innocence inspires me to always seek happiness and delight, for there is no greater gift than to be able to look at the world through a child’s eyes.
I am thankful for my mom because she has never given up on me, and through her actions I’ve learned to be a better mom to my children.
Tiffany, one of my oldest and dearest friends, gave me the gift of faith again when I never thought I would possess it. Her relentlessness, persistence, and prayer will never be forgotten.
Aimee, another one of my oldest and dearest friends, was, and always had been the calming voice I needed during the greatest storm in my life. Her calm ways and patience with me gave me the courage to seek the help I needed. Perhaps someday I will truly be able to express my gratitude to her for that.
I am also thankful for my dear friend, Laura who has always loved me at my best and my worst, has always been there to listen when I needed her, and when it was time for her to be brutally honest, she loved me enough to do so."
Practicing gratitude is a gift.
It reminds us that as bad as things may appear, if we stop to reflect upon our lives, there’s always something to be found for which we can be grateful.
Gratitude can restore calm in an otherwise chaotic and turbulent situation, especially when someone is only focusing on the negative. There are many other benefits that come from practicing gratitude, including deeper personal connections, decreased physical pain, better sleep, and increased personal joy.
An easy way to tap into your gratitude is by starting a gratitude journal and committing to writing in it daily. Personally, I admit that life gets in the way of my daily gratitude practice at times and its absence is apparent in my attitude. Rather than being positive, I become irritable and anxious.
Tuesday, September 21st is World Gratitude Day, and as such, I am going to commit to writing in a gratitude journal daily. I have never kept a separate journal for this, but I am going to now. Recalling how I felt when I participated in that 21-day meditation program has motivated me and reminded me that I want to feel that way every day.
As a writer, I don’t anticipate the journaling aspect to present a challenge, but you don’t have to be a writer to start a gratitude journal, so please join me if you’d like!
If you are unsure where you should start, you should check out the website for The Ultimate Gratitude Journal Guide by Intelligent Change! They offer various ideas to start and maintain a gratitude journal. They also have a free gratitude journal prompt document you can download and print.
I particularly liked their idea about journaling in the morning to start the day on a positive note and ending the day by journaling again before bed with a focus on the positive things that happened throughout your day.
I am grateful for my place in life today. I am grateful for my past, for had none of the other things happened, I may not appreciate my life right now. I would never have become this person who can let things go (most times). I would not have relinquished my perception of control and turned it over to the only truly in control, which, to me, is God. And although most times I find I am in a good place, I want to preserve and maintain my sense of being, my sense of calm and serenity.
Journaling daily about my gratitude will help me protect my place of comfort and positivity. A gratitude journal will also act as a tool I can use during times of negativity, a keepsake, a timeline of sorts I can read through when I am at a loss to find something for which to be grateful. I’m looking forward to this new task that I will be incorporating into my daily routine, and hope you will find it beneficial as well!