I came across a list of writing prompts recently. It’s a list bloggers can refer to if they’re feeling lost about what to write about. It can be challenging to churn out material on a consistent basis, especially when for most of us it is an avocation more than a vocation.
Most of the prompts left me as vacant as before I read the list, but one hit me. “Make a gratitude list.”
This is a blessed ritual I started back when Oprah encouraged us all to take on the practice after she had read “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Funny, I never realized until typing it just now, that Sarah’s last name has the word breath in it! Whoa!
Breath is probably the single most important thing to be grateful for. No matter how bad things seem to get, you can always be grateful for another day. Sometimes, you may think there’s nothing to be grateful for. And I don’t kid myself into thinking that every person is actually happy to live another day. But for me, and I imagine for many of us, a gratitude journal can be just the ticket to shifting our perspective away from resentment, bitterness, and anger, toward acceptance, tolerance, and calm.
Knowing that at night before I go to bed, I must list 5 things that I’ve been grateful for in the day, makes me look for things to write down. Then before I realize it, I’m noticing so many good things that 5 slots isn’t nearly enough. The act of doing the exercise actually changes how I see my world. Each person, each situation, each event has me seeing the good. I know this sounds Pollyanna, but I swear it works, and it’s a big part of what I see as my religion. When I get pouty and cranky and rude – and that can be more often than I care admit — I look toward the best spiritual teacher I know…
I circle back and remember to take stock in my gratitude journal. I literally start writing lists again. Maya Angelou said, “Say thank you first.” I even incorporated those words into my wedding vows to Patrick. Even if something is bad, ask what you are to learn from it. There is nothing you can’t be grateful for.
But let’s get real, when life is beating you down it can be even more exhausting to search for gratitude. When it feels impossible or stupid, just start small. Here’s my list from yesterday:
- A gelled ice pack that is the exact size for my back.
- Georgie kissing my face all morning.
- Finding a ladybug on one of our house plants.
- A new company joining the Operation Backpack campaign.
- The train pulling into the station just as I reached the subway platform.
See, easy stuff. Now you try it. ☺