Grouchiness and gratitude

Some time ago, Eurie sent me this lovely article chronicling the author’s experiment with keeping a gratitude journal. The idea is, feeling real gratitude makes us happy and healthy, so we should cultivate it whenever we can. It’s a nice concept, and one often lost in our busy materialistic lives.

I’d heard about a gratitude journal before this, but I never started one. I’ve got so many projects and journals already, and I think I’m already pretty grateful for the life I lead. Then I found something that’s similar, but even better: the dual kvetch/gratitude journal.

I can’t take credit for this; the idea comes from a reader who made this suggestion a long time ago in Real Simple (yes, I do save magazine clippings… a LOT of them; that’d be another one of my projects). Every night before she goes to bed, she writes in two journals. First, she makes a list of all her nagging concerns, the sorts of things that eat at you throughout the day whether you realize it or not. Then, she takes up her gratitude journal and writes down everything for which she feels grateful, big and small alike. That way, she ends the day on a positive note.

I tried this last night and it was so good I did it again tonight. I’ve said it before but I can always use more reminders: our problems often become so much less just by naming/enumerating them. Last night I felt a little out of sorts, but after writing down what was bothering me, I realized there were only four things, and all of them manageable. If I hadn’t gone through the (not-so-much) trouble of figuring out what was irritating me, I would have gone to bed feeling vaguely uneasy, when indeed I could have slept tranquilly knowing my woes were not really problems at all. This alone makes the dual journal worthwhile.

Then, when chronicling just the things that had made me grateful that day, I felt free to leave off the “big things” I’m supposed to be grateful for, like family and health and etc, in lieu of just listing what I’d felt grateful for that day. Then I realized, with, uh, gratitude, that all those things were on the list anyway — I really had been consciously grateful for them during that day. That was nice to think about, and so were all the other big and small things that had made me happy. The list of things I’m grateful for also has a self-reinforcing purpose: by thinking on and noting all the things that make me happy in a day, I’m also reminded to seek these out in the future, whether they be ice cream (Dreyers Slow-Churned Vanilla Bean, if you must know) or spending an evening away from the computer. And it’s also heartening to see that long list of gratitude juxtaposed with that shorter list of annoyances. In fact, I’ve had so much fun making the lists that both nights I’ve now kept this journal, “doing this” (keeping the journal) has made it onto the grateful list.

Give it a try tomorrow night (or tonight) before bed, and see if it works for you.

Oh, and two big things on my gratitude list tonight: (1) I’m not feeling sick anymore, and (2) I broke through a writer’s block. YAY!!!

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]