3 Lessons from the Gratitude Project
I’m keeping a gratitude journal for three weeks. Every evening or morning I use a pen to express thanks for three things in a journal.
3 Lessons from the Gratitude Project
We learn and grow best in community.
A friend of mine texted me Monday night, “Did you do your assignment?” I knew what she was talking about.
- The path forward seems easier when others know where you’re going. Declare the skills you’re working to develop.
- Projects feel more enjoyable when someone notices what you’re doing.
- Motivation increases when others are pulling for you.
#2. Morning gratitude:
Morning gratitude is prospective.
Gratitude in the morning moves attention to opportunity, more than difficulty or problem.
When I’m grateful in the morning, I look forward to things I’ll accomplish. I focus on the value of my strengths and how I might bring value to others.
#3. Evening gratitude:
Evening gratitude is retrospective.
We understand life in retrospect. Kirkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Gratitude in the evening reveals values. You’re thankful for things that matter to you.
5 tips for keeping a gratitude journal:
- Write. Don’t type. Put pen to paper.
- Let others know what you’re doing.
- Record three different items every day.
- Be real. If you’re thankful for the strawberry pie, record it.
- Be specific. I wrote ‘the warmth of my wife’s lips last night when we kissed in front of the stove’.
Maybe a few weeks of keeping a gratitude journal would do you good.
What have you learned from keeping a gratitude journal?
What tips might you offer for keeping a gratitude journal?
Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal (Berkeley)
Gratitude Journal: 67 Templates, Ideas, and Apps for Your Diary (Positive Psychology)
The Benefits of a Gratitude Journal and How to Maintain One (Huff Post)
I used to work as a Cognitive Skills Facilitator with maximum security inmates. I have always been a Gratitude Journal keeper with varying degrees of commitment and found it helped me immensely in the “best of times and worst of times”. I decided to test this on my daily participants.. Of course, a little incentive goes a long way with some folks, so I brought in “real” coffee one day and said that I would offer anyone a cup if they first put an item for which they were grateful on a large flip chart. There were grumblings but one by one they approached the paper and wrote something (some funny and some less so). I told them that each day this would be required before I would begin the session and that there was only 1 rule – they couldn’t duplicate an item they had previously submitted. Over the next few weeks a remarkable thing happened, my participants indicated they were actively looking for things for which to be grateful and as a result found they were in a better head space. No small feat in a prison I can assure you. Their items were introspective, moving, honest – hot food, a laugh from a TV sit com, a picture from a loved one. I would challenge us all to be grateful for the same things…I know I was humbled on more than one occasion.
Wow!! Thanks Jo Ann. I’ve visited State and Federal prisons and done some work with people who work “inside.” It’s a tough environment. I’m so thankful you shared your experience.
Wow Dan powerful!
I love the way you portray the journey everyday.
Nice, My feet hit the floor this morning, the chamomile Tea was refreshing for breakfast, I’m not reading my name in the paper today! Cheers
Thanks Tim. I stopped looking for my name in the paper. 🙂
Ahhh the smell of freshly ground coffee beans. That’s something to be thankful for. Tea??? Each to his own.
Dan, Yes Tea, used to drink 2 quarts of coffee a day when I worked the pole lines was a body warmer and energy boost! We mellow with age! Do love the smell of fresh Coffee and oak wood fires.
I am grateful that I have seen and heard about the benefits of gratitude. 🙂 I know there are many who never even consider it or understand its benefits and have so much to be grateful for. I also know for many it is hard to even notice the good, due to their own personal situations. 🙁
Personally, I am aware of things to be grateful for. I also know that I take a lot for granted. I also can frame opportunities as problems. I overlooked blessings in my life.
Awareness though is a great step forward.
Yes. Awareness is a great step forward. My experience indicates that we can work very hard for long periods of time and not acknowledge what’s really going on for us and others.
I am grateful for Leadership Freak. Thanks for your daily reminders.
I’ve kept a daily gratitude journal every day for the past 7 years. One of the BEST things I’ve ever done for myself! I look for at least 5 things for which to be grateful every single day, starting when my feet hit the floor for the first time in the morning. Most days the list is double that number (or more)!
This practice of actively identifying the many things for which I am grateful has me more mindful of my world and all the joy it brings me.
I use Evernote to capture my gratitude list. I begin a new list on January 1st and add a new dated piece to it day-by-day throughout the year. At the end of the year, I review the long list and reflect on how very blessed I am. THAT is truly a blessing!
Thanks Alan. You’re comment is instructive, encouraging, and challenging. I committed to keep a gratitude journal for three weeks.
Like you, I’m noticing that I notice better.
I’m going to start handwriting then scan into evernote. The best of both worlds. grateful for technology. sometimes
Gotta love technology when it works. 🙂
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for a number of years, recording five things for which I’m grateful or appreciate intentionally. Yes, I’m an overachiever. LOL. But I appreciate your third point…because I always write down my items in the morning (part of my “habit stacking” in my morning routine), I’ve never though about the retrospective aspect. Thank you!
Thanks Kris. It’s interesting that you always do your gratitude practice in the morning. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed a difference between evening gratitude and morning gratitude.
I spread gratitude by this; every email I send I end in Thank You and Have a Grateful Day (or evening or weekend). Its my way of spreading gratitude for life and family I have received.
Thanks Roger. We could use a little more please and thank you. 🙂
It’s amazing how gratitude can flip a switch in your head. I’ve been keeping an attitude of gratitude since my early days in Al-Anon. I’ve also kept a gratitude journal off and on over the years. I would recommend keeping the journal in a place that is very visible. It serves as a reminder for when times get hectic and you forget about taking a minute to bring the focus back to all the good things that are happening.
Thanks and congratulations, Beth.
A trigger is important. Seeing the journal helps keep the practice top of mind. I’ve been carrying around a little notebook. I only write in it in the evening or morning. But I keep it with me as a reminder.
Another spin is to conclude one’s day (or start the next) by journaling three things I did well. Same rule – be real. Even if I feel the day had been a complete mess, I might feel I put my outfit for the work day together and felt great in it. I didn’t snap at my teenage son. I facilitated that meeting without any major problems. By acknowledging what I do well, I set a foundation of success, or the feeling of success which is such a positive foundation to work from. This has been a wonderful thing to mix in with gratitude some days.
Thanks Sacha. I bet some of us would be helped by remembering things we did well. The inner critic is loud and persistent.
Last calendar year I wrote down something each day about my wife for which I was thankful. They I presented it to her at Christmas. She was blessed, but I even more so as each day I consciously wrote what it was I observed or how she blessed me. Made me more thankful for her.
Love that, Pete.
Thanks Pete, I am doing this in 2020, great idea
I’ve been keeping a “one line” gratitude journal for years, but as with your model, I always try to list at least three things. Contrary to your suggestion, I do it electronically. (Excuse, my penmanship is so bad even I can’t read it) But, the bonus of doing it electronically is that it’s very easy to re-review year over year. So, today, I looked back at things I’ve been grateful for on November 14 of past years. What a daily attitude boost!
Hi Dan, today’s post really resonated. I’m sure you know Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage book. We were asked by a customer to create a learning program based on Shawn’s book and the 21 principles he describes. One of the top exercises is writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Another exercise is to relive the best experience that happened today and write it down. The key word is WRITE, the tactical aspect of writing it re-fires the neurons in your brain to feel the emotion. The one other thing that jumped out is your point that We learn and grow best in community. I can vividly remember to this day we ran this course internally before sharing it with the customer in Feb 2013. Another exercise is to publicly share a small goal with a friend, colleague or team. At the time my wife and I were trying to commit to exercising each day. We’d be exhausted at the end of a workday and sometimes blew it off. We’d say, we should try to work out first thing in the morning. That became my goal for the course experience. I can remember colleagues asking, “so, how’s that exercise program going?” To this day that learning experience changed my life, I have exercised first thing in the morning for the past 6 years and I attribute it to that collaborative community learning experience. I have thanked Shawn over the years.
Loved reading the responses to your article about Gratitude. I’ve been preparing a presentation about that very topic tomorrow at our spiritual community. In our awareness of appreciating what is around us each day we forget to complain, compare or feel dismay about current news. Looking back at depression in my youth for what seemed to be missing I wish that then I had had enough wisdom to be grateful for the many blessings that were present. The advantages of age are becoming clearer each day. Thanks for your sharing Dan Rockwell. As always insightful.
I have had a written gratitude practice for almost 9 years. It begun after I was struck by a car while riding my bike. As I went through the process of healing, I was in awe and gratitude each day, I was filled with grace. It was an amazing experience and allows me to experience the recovery process in a unique, amazing way. Fast forward 9 years. This year I lost my mom and three weeks later, on my mom’s birthday, I lost my 32 yr old son. The day we found out of his passing, I sat for an hour or so, and wrote all the things I was grateful for, for having him in my life for 32 wonderful years. Gratitude and grief- they are not mutually exclusive. The gratitude wrapped my grief in a warm loving embrace and softened the edges of my grief. I cannot imagine what that experience would have been like without my gratitude practice
As I reflect on my life, I find that having gratitude is especially important during difficult times in life. Even though we may not feel it in the moment, it is important to note what we are grateful for in order to appreciate all the blessings we have. By changing our mindset to stay positive at all times, we ultimately become happier and attract wonderful experiences and people in our life. For example, during this difficult time with COVID-19, there are many blessings in disguise. Although many people are not able to work or have to work from home, they finally have a lot of time to spend with their family. Additionally, since everyone is forced to social distance, they have time to pursue hobbies that they may have been holding off on. From a corporate perspective, many businesses may realize that a lot of jobs can be done remotely; thus, in the future these changes in how we work may become permanent. Overall, even during difficult times, there is always some aspect we can be grateful for as well as learn from. I completely agree with you that we should actively note three things we are grateful for each day, particularly in the morning and evening. I love what you stated that morning gratitude shifts our focus to opportunity, and evening gratitude helps us to reflect about our values. I believe actively focusing on gratitude both in the morning and evening helps us to shift our mindset to become more positive, which ultimately leads us to success.