In America we associate November with gratitude. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month, and before we dig into the traditional feast of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, we take time to thank God for His blessings in our lives.
In recent years social media has extended this day of thanks to include the entire month. We are encouraged to participate in #30daysofgratitude on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, sharing one blessing each day with online friends.
This corporate expression of thanksgiving has its benefits. Not only do we recognize joy in our own lives, but there is a contagious cheer that spreads through the community as we acknowledge the blessings of others.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown explains the necessity of incorporating gratitude into our daily lives.
She first discusses the distinct difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion linked to a specific circumstance; joy, on the other hand, is tied to spirit and gratitude.
But often gratitude must be cultivated and “Gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works – it’s not alive.”
Several months ago, I began a gratitude journal. It was a time of angst and division in my family, and I had lost sight of joy. I promised myself to maintain the journal for thirty days, and I challenged myself to find three blessings each day.
I must admit it felt forced in the beginning, but I persevered. Soon I discovered gratitude begets more gratitude. I found myself giving thanks not only for the shelter of my home, but for its imperfections as well. In giving thanks for family members, I began to understand their differing points of view.
Slowly over the course of these thirty days I began to see the world around me in a new light. I became more accepting of others – and of myself. I found contentment where I once experienced frustration. I learned to transform thoughts of scarcity (I am not enough – I do not have enough) to thoughts of sufficiency (God is enough).
By the time the month ended, I developed the daily practice of gratitude. While life’s circumstances had not changed, my attitude toward those circumstances did. I once again found joy in daily living.
I know God is in control. I know He cares for family members , even more than I do. I know His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me. I now know the peace that transcends all understanding.
While we can develop the habit of gratitude without maintaining a journal, I strongly encourage you to try it. Handwriting causes the brain to slow down, to reflect rather than react. Handwriting engages the right-side of the brain. The physical movement of hand across page and the formation of letters with the pen, is a type of creative expression. This creativity expands our thoughts to consider other possibilities.
Journaling is key to discovering personal history, with no required word count, no right or wrong way to approach a topic, no set number of thanks per day
The value in keeping a journal is that it helps us recover joy in the present and leaves a legacy of God’s faithfulness for the future.
©2015 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope
Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life After 50.