Seven thousand, four hundred and two
That’s how many gifts I’ve written down over the last 6 years, as of this morning. I try to write down at least three each day. Some days I have more, and some days I struggle to come up with just three things I’m thankful for that aren’t repetitive or cliche.
I started keeping a gratitude journal when I joined a book club for moms at my church. It was after Dorian, my oldest, was born and I was struggling with postpartum depression for the first time. The book club was reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It’s a wonderful book, and Ann is one of my favorite authors and bloggers.
But at the time it was too much for me.
I couldn’t come up with three each day like she recommended.
Many days I couldn’t even come up with one.
The longer I counted, the more I started to believe, God really is with me.
He really does love me.
He really is giving me gifts to show me himself and demonstrate his love.
Practicing looking for and acknowledging his gifts made it easier to see them.
Choosing to express gratitude made the experience of it deeper, richer, and stronger.
Those experiences made life worth living.
It’s become a habit that has sustained me through some of the darkest, hardest, most challenging moments of my life. Including my most recent transition off of antidepressant medication.
I encourage you to start writing down the things you’re thankful for! Especially on the days when you feel out of control. Write them down and thank God for them. Thank any other people who might be involved with them too! Allow yourself to feel the deep appreciation, joy, and beauty of having been given something simply as an expression of God’s, or another person’s, delight in your existence! Choose to smile about it. Don’t shut the experience down! Choose to enter into that place as often as it comes back to your mind or you notice something to list.
I could get into all the scientific, physiological reasons for how practicing gratitude opens the door for us to start leading our emotions, but I’ll save that for another post.
In the meantime you can read more about about the science and benefits of gratitude here if you’d like.
Nothing is too big or too small. Here are some of mine for inspiration:
4284. Date night with Steven
4285. Watching Avatar, the Last Airbender with Dorian
4286. Lazy squirrel laying on its belly on a tree branch
5232. Learning to ask for what I want
5233. A good emotions day
5234. Walking outside
6270. Antibiotics for Declan’s ear infection
6271. Money to pay for antibiotics
6272. Patience and energy with my sick baby
7249. Talking to my sister on the phone
7250. The pride on Dorian’s face for his taekwondo trophy
7251. An owl hooting outside my window
Gratitude is a choice, and an emotion. Unsought experiences of gratitude are rare and beautiful, but better the joy of a lifetime of choosing gratitude over and over, cultivating it as a habit, than the bitter pain of repeated disappointment.
Just in case you think, “I’m already a pretty positive person. I don’t need to make an intentional habit of practicing gratitude!” Here is a quiz and an assessment so you can check and see if you’re really as good at counting your blessings as you think you are. I didn’t score nearly as high as I thought I would, and I’ve been counting for around 6 years!
Oh well, guess I’ll have to keep practicing.
What are you grateful for today?