In a recent interview for the popular Podcast, Right On Baby, with Jade Inspiration, I was quoted as saying “Gratitude lists suck monkey balls”. Those who know me and have been following my work were understandably confused, especially since I said the same thing about meditation, and I am a huge proponent of meditation and gratitude. I received numerous emails asking me to explain my comment.
Those of us who have been consciously active in personal development and self-help know that keeping a gratitude list or journal is key to a happy life. We are taught in every book and workshop that we must keep a daily gratitude practice, whether it’s writing a list every morning when we wake up, keeping a journal of things we’re grateful for or simply counting our blessings in our mind as we drift off to sleep. We are taught that the more we’re grateful for, the more we’re given to be grateful for.
Like eating right and exercise, keeping a gratitude list has become yet another obligatory staple in our ever increasing list of things to do to be happy. We know we should do it so we begrudgingly carve out the time in our busy days and rush through it, often listing items as we would a grocery list, with no feeling of gratitude or appreciation whatsoever.
The act of keeping a gratitude list is a waste of time when no authentic feelings of gratitude or joy are elicited from it. It becomes nothing more than what I call a grocery-gratitude list and only serves the purpose of satisfying your ego’s sense of achievement for finishing yet another task on the spiritual seeker’s To-Do list.
I caught myself in that pattern of writing emotionless grocery-gratitude lists several years ago and decided to change the name of my gratitude list to “Feelingtude List”. It was a way for me to remind myself of the importance of feeling gratitude. It reminded me that the purpose of keeping a gratitude list is to feel good, not to get more stuff to feel good about, but to feel good now, with what I already have. Shifting my perspective to a more feeling oriented goal infused my list – and more importantly, me – with a vibrant joy and playfulness I hadn’t experienced from my lists before.
Below are 5 tips, along with images from my own personal gratitude journal, to help you supercharge your lists and get to the feeling place of gratitude and joy.
1) Add life to your text. Don’t be afraid to draw, scribble, use different color pens, glue images and photos, dried flowers, or whatever you want. If you went to a Bruno Mars concert and you had a great time, glue the ticket stub in it and write around it. This is your book, infuse your personality into it. Make it more than just a text book. Turn it into a scrapbook. Unleash your creativity and have fun with it.
2) Add details. I have a stuffed bunny that I’ve had for over 2 decades. Have no idea where I got her, but throughout the years, when I was depressed and lonely, she gave me comfort. When I was happy and fulfilled, she brought more joy out of me. Sounds silly for a grown woman of 43 to sleep with a stuffed bunny, but I love her to death and wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars. She often finds her way into my journal and instead of writing “Bunny” and moving on to the next item in the list, I add some details. What do I love about her? What do I love to do with her? The details carry you deeper into the feeling of gratitude and keep you there longer.
3) Add reasons. Why are you grateful for something? If you’ve listed your home, write about why you’re grateful for it. Does it bring security, comfort, rest? Does it give you electricity, running water, heat? Don’t just list the thing you love, list the reasons why you love it. Embellish them. Bask in them.
4) Pick something specific. If you are grateful for your partner, instead of listing them for the hundredth time, change it up by picking something specific about them that you love. Do you love the way she looks at you and only you? Does he make you breakfast in bed on Saturdays? Pick something specific that you appreciate and write about it. Sometimes being general is helpful to start the momentum of gratitude (“I love my husband” – and in this case, you would take it further by adding details or listing the reasons why) but sometimes specificity thrusts you deeper into appreciation and elicits involvement from your physical senses (“I love my husband’s smell”), which helps you to quickly and effortlessly click in to the feeling of gratitude, especially when you re-read it months later.
5) Re-read your list often. If you had a bad day and need a quick pick-me-up, look through your gratitude journal. The details and embellishments you’ve added will help take you immediately to the feeling of gratitude. They not only serve you in the moment of writing them, they continue to serve you as you re-read them, acting to spark your memory in a way that awakens the emotion in your heart, not just the thoughts in your head.
When you do these 5 things, your gratitude journal moves from an activity of the mind to an activity of the heart. This daily practice doesn’t just infuse your list with vibrancy and color, it infuses your life. You gain a deeper appreciation for all things and while it’s true, you will start receiving more things to be grateful for, you will discover that there’s no end to the amount of joy and appreciation you can feel, no matter what you have or don’t have. The depths of joy and appreciation are endless and your gratitude journal becomes a catalyst to thrust you deeper into your joy.