I am not especially fond of photos of myself, but this is the only one I could find of my Got Gratitude? classroom bulletin board. I do not and I repeat, emphatically, do not like creating bulletin boards. I have only one in my classroom. I come up with an idea at the beginning of the year and I do not change it. For the past few years, I’ve gone with the gratitude theme and I add every thank you note that I receive during the year. Today I came across an article called Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life. I started reading because this is something that I am very interested in. I obviously love to write. I would write this blog even if no one showed up to read it (but I am very grateful to those of you who do- trust me). When I was younger, I kept a diary. I have no earthly idea where those little books filled with teen-age angst are, but I wish that I did. I also kept one when I got married 35 years ago. No idea where that one is either unfortunately. I used to write letters when I was upset, pouring out my feelings on paper. I would reread them, my anger usually dissipating, and then burn the letters in our fireplace. When and why did I stop doing that? Probably when I went away to college.
So, what does keeping a journal have to do with gratitude? Benjamin P. Hardy, the author of the article, had already hooked me, but about halfway through the article he hit upon the subject near and dear to my heart:
Journaling Increases Your Gratitude
Even if you start a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting your mind towards gratitude.
When you start writing what you’re grateful for, new chambers of thought open in the palace of your mind. You’ll often need to put your pen down and take a few overwhelming breathes. You’ll be captivated not only by the amazing things in your life, but by the awe and brilliance of life in general.
As part of your morning and post-work journaling sessions, be sure to include some gratitude in your writing. It will change your entire life orientation from scarcity to abundance. The world will increasingly become your oyster.
Gratitude journaling is a scientifically proven way to overcome several psychological challenges. The benefits are seemingly endless. Here are just a few:
- Gratitude makes you happier
- Gratitude makes other people like you
- Gratitude makes you healthier
- Gratitude boosts your career
- Gratitude strengthens your emotions
- Gratitude develops your personality
- Gratitude makes you more optimistic
- Gratitude reduces materialism
- Gratitude increases spirituality
- Gratitude makes you less self-centered
- Gratitude increases your self-esteem
- Gratitude improves your sleep
- Gratitude keeps you away from the doctor by strengthening physiological functioning
- Gratitude lets you live longer
- Gratitude increases your energy levels
- Gratitude makes you more likely to exercise
- Gratitude helps you bounce back from challenges
- Gratitude makes you feel good
- Gratitude makes your memories happier (think of Pixar’s Inside Out)
- Gratitude reduces feelings of envy
- Gratitude helps you relax
- Gratitude makes you friendlier
- Gratitude helps your marriage
- Gratitude makes you look good
- Gratitude deepens your friendships
- Gratitude makes you a more effective manager
- Gratitude helps you network
- Gratitude increases your goal achievement
- Gratitude improves your decision making
- Gratitude increases your productivity
Mr. Hardy’s list is much longer than the ones I have come up with on my own, but I truly believe every single one of them. I believe that focusing on what I am thankful for keeps my mind from wandering to the past and all of the things that I wish that I had done differently or the words that I wish I could take back. I try to practice what I preach with my students. We write thank you notes at Thanksgiving, during several of our advisory sessions, and my 8th graders have to write a thank you letter- en français bien sûr, for the writing section of their final exam in my French 2 class. I give them guidelines and they can write it in advance and bring it to the exam. I promise that I will mail them. I just put letters addressed to Kobe Bryant, Zinedine Zidane, Paul Van Haver (aka Stromae), several sets of grandparents, a dog named Norman, Bertrand, the tour manager for our March France trip (if you ever need a tour guide in Paris or other parts of Paris, check out My Private Paris), three faculty members, one brother, and two sisters in the mail today, keeping a few for myself.
I will begin a journal. Not an on-line one. An old-fashioned one in a notebook, using a favorite pen. (I am truly obsessed with pens. It’s insane.) I will collect quotes and follow guidelines that I set for myself, using some from the article on journaling. I will Dream Big, Have fun, Share (some of what I write), Try new things, Always tell the truth, and do my best.
I think I may even start with this:
What do you think? Do you keep a journal or diary? If so, do you share it with anyone or is it strictly for your eyes only?
Here’s a recipe to be grateful for… JC made these the other night for a potluck dinner. I ate mine so fast that there was no time for a photo.
Judy’s Cream Cheese Brownies
from Taste of Home
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces German sweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate and butter on high until butter is melted; stir until smooth. Whisk in sugar until blended. Whisk in extracts and eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour mixture. Pour half of the batter into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Beat together filling ingredients until blended; spoon over batter in pan. Spoon remaining batter over top. Swirl gently with a knife. Bake until filling is set, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Cut into bars. Refrigerate leftovers.
Yield: 2 dozen.
Bon appétit, my grateful friends and family! Make a gratitude list. Make it an experiment and see if it makes you feel better. Tell someone that you are grateful for them. Send a note, an email, a text or call them.