Thursday, May 4th

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my morning meditation practice lately, and when I realized today’s exercise was another meditation, I felt some resistance. I could imagine my inner six-year-old saying “But meditation is hard!”

So I looked for a way to make it easier. The obvious way to make it easier, for me, is to do a guided meditation. This relieves me from the burden of deciding what to focus on, and allows me just to do the focusing. I ended up using this meditation. It wasn’t quite as focused on gratitude as I might have liked, but it did help me focus.

Happy Thursday!

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Monday, Apr 24th

Gratitude Journal

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

In an excellent mood today, I found it difficult to narrow in on a single thing I wanted to journal about. This is typical of me when I’m in a very good mood — my brain likes to jump around from one thing to another. For a few minutes I debated between one or another topic, trying to get my mind to settle down, and then I remembered a useful life rule: Choose your battles.

So today, instead of selecting a single thing I’m grateful for and trying to dig deep into it, I let myself write a long, rambling list of things, in exactly as much detail as I liked. The structure of these exercises is after all not the point; the point is the focus on positivity, and whatever gets me there is just fine.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, Apr 12th

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Recently I watched a TED talk called Happy Brain, in which Amit Sood talked about positive psychology and gave some recommendations for short exercises. One of them was to spend a few minutes upon waking each day feeling gratitude toward five people in your life.

When he ran through the exercise in his talk, though, he surprised me. He left the first four people up to the participants, but for the fifth he specified being grateful for “your eight-year-old self.” This really struck me; I have a difficult time with self-compassion, and it had never occurred to me to try a gratitude practice aimed at my younger self.

So today for my gratitude meditation, I tried to skip through my life, generating a sense of “the person I was” at various points, and feeling gratitude for that person. At times the meditation began to edge into being more about compassion than gratitude, but that seemed OK.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, Apr 7th

Express Gratitude

This exercise is non-trivial for my introverted soul. It isn’t that I expect myself to express deep, profound gratitude every time this exercise comes up (roughly every three weeks). I consider it entirely legitimate to express minor gratitude to a stranger. But I feel it ought to be more than a routine “thank-you,” that I ought to at least make an effort to give specific, meaningful feedback to someone about how they’ve made my life better.

This time I unexpectedly had an opportunity in the grocery store, where I found myself trying to check out with an overtired toddler. As she began to melt down into a sobbing, thrashing heap of tantrum, I saw the cashier begin to move more and more quickly. It gave me the opportunity to tell him that I hugely appreciated his speed and skill in getting me out of there.

Happy Friday!

Friday, Mar 31st

Gratitude Journal

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Today I focused my gratitude on my father. Nothing has increased my appreciation of my parents more than having children of my own, but I rarely pause to really acknowledge all their wonderful qualities.

I think that this exercise’s best use, for me, is in focusing on the people in my life. Each time I take the time to think through my gratitude for a specific person, my life is better for it.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, Mar 21st

Gratitude Meditation

There’s a brief description of this exercise here.

Today I focused my meditation on my two-year-old. This was partly because we had a serious conflict today, and I think it can be helpful for me (when I have space for it) to remind myself of how grateful I am for her presence in my life. It certainly helped; I felt much closer to her afterwards.

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, Mar 16th

Express Gratitude

Last time I did this exercise I found it helpful to think of someone at the beginning of the day to whom I wanted to express gratitude. I tried to look for other opportunities as well, but since I can still be cautious of putting myself out there, it was useful to have a specific person in mind. That made it much harder for me to put it off.

Today I’ve decided to express gratitude to my children. I was reminded recently of how easy it is to overlook their contributions, and focus in only when they do something “wrong” (or, often, just something inconvenient for me). I don’t think I’m an excessively negative parent, but I am curious to pay greater attention to my positive responses to them.

Happy Thursday!

Friday, Mar 10th

Gratitude Journal

Today for my gratitude journal I decided to focus on a friend, which gave me the double boost of thinking about gratitude and thinking about social connection. I wrote down five specific things that I’m grateful for in that friendship – some ongoing characteristics, and some past instances of kindness or understanding. This was a wonderful exercise for me; I carried the warmth of it for hours.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, Feb 28th

Gratitude Meditation

Focusing on gratitude never fails to make my day better. Today I decided to spend a little time in focused gratitude meditation.

The stillmind site has some simple instructions for gratitude meditation, which focus on gratitude for the world around us, our friends and family, ourselves, and our life. It’s a good place to start, but if that seems too long or if you want to try something different, it’s entirely possible to build a custom meditation for yourself. I’ll sometimes choose a single thing in my life, or a single relationship, and spend my meditation time focusing in on all the ways I’m grateful for that one thing.

Today I chose my hands. I thought about their sense of well-being, and how grateful I am that they do their (many) jobs without pain. I thought of all the things I do with my hands: working, holding children, playing viola, typing… My hands do amazing things every day, and I am definitely grateful for them.

Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, Feb 23rd

Express Gratitude

Writing in a journal about gratitude is good. Today I want to try something which I find much more difficult: telling people how grateful I am to them.

I already had this exercise planned, but yesterday I received a powerful reminder of how meaningful it can be to express ourselves to others. A friend of mine wrote me a beautiful note in which she told me all the things she appreciated about me. It was unexpected and lovely and entirely made my day.

One of the things I noticed is that the qualities she highlighted were all specific and reasonable. She didn’t go over the top with superlatives, claim that I was the “best” anything, or say that I’d changed her life. I think this made the note feel more genuine; it certainly made me feel as though she’d truly seen me (although clearly she’d been looking at my best side!).

Today my goal is to tell at least one person how grateful I am to them. I have someone in mind, a person who has given generously of his time to help me on a project. But I’m looking for opportunities to tell others as well, even in small ways, about how they’ve made my life better.

Happy Thursday!