Gratitude: Day Two
The word took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.
Th e Message, John 1:14
The Power of the Written Word
Welcome to day two of the gratefulness challenge.
Yesterday, we talked about the practice of mindfully observing the good. Today we’re going to be working on gratefulness journaling and exploring the power of writing things down.
Gratefulness journaling takes the practice of being a mindful observer a step further. It involves first noticing things you are grateful for, then taking action and actually writing down those things in a journal.
You might be wondering why it’s necessary to write down the things you notice.
There are several reasons for this.
First, when we write things down, it gives us time to reflect. It has been said, "We don't grow from our experiences. We grow from our reflection upon our experiences."
Writing, especially writing by hand, forces us to slow down and think. When you write about what you’re grateful for, it allows you to pause and consider WHY you’re so grateful for a particular thing.
Second, writing down the things you’re grateful for reinforces them in your mind. It’s like noticing them a second time and being grateful for them all over again.
This practice of “double gratefulness” can literally double your joy. When you write down what you’re grateful for, it freshly focuses your attention on those things and gives you a fresh appreciation for all that you have to be grateful for.
Third, the practice of writing things down improves our long term memory through the process of 'encoding.' "Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered."
This is important because the practice of remembering has a secondary benefit: it enables us to (figuratively) be re-membered (put back together) during times of disconnection or crisis. In other words, by making something a permanent part of our memory, we create opportunities for our minds to draw upon that same information as needed, which can help us rebuild our lives in positive ways after significant loss.
And lastly, by writing down the good that we are observing and taking the time to allow ourselves to feel the emotion of appreciation associated with our observations, we are literally allowing both gratitude and goodness to "take up residency within us" - to move into the neighborhood, so to speak. And who doesn't want a life, a home, a community, a world that is filled with more goodness?
There’s no need to overcomplicate this.
Get a notebook - any kind will do - or simply print the Gratitude Journal attached at the end of this reflection. At the end of each day, write down at least TEN things from your day that you’re grateful for.
They can be big things, like getting a raise at work, to little things, like holding your daughter’s hand on a walk, the sunset, the rain, the breath in your lungs - you get the point.
Also, write down WHY you’re grateful for those particular things. What about them makes you happy? Why are you grateful for them? Even just a few words that are meaningful to you can effectively produce the benefits of the journaling, so don't feel like you have to write an essay. If writing does not come naturally to you, just write something.
Finally, after you’ve written each thing down, offer a brief word of thanks for it. Take the opportunity to be grateful (again) in the moment.
Truly! This practice doesn’t need to take long. You should be able to do it in 5-10 minutes. The goal is simply to get yourself in a developing a state of gratefulness at the end of the day.
Tomorrow we’re going to be talking about the powerful practice of saying, “Thank you.”
See you tomorrow!