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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve tried keeping a gratitude journal multiple times. Or perhaps it’s been the same journal, done in multiple fits and starts. I’ve had days that I really connected to the process, and felt warm and happy doing it; and other days that it felt like just another task to complete, dredging up things to be grateful for.
This is one reason that I’ve decided to mix up my happiness exercises day to day. But I wonder now if I haven’t been approaching it wrong in the first place. Previously my technique was just to plunk down with a blank book, start with “I am grateful for…” and list off a bunch of things. My perfectionist brain felt it was important to write at least mostly new things every time, which meant that every day’s entry got harder.
But recently I saw another approach. Instead of listing off multiple things, this suggested that I write down one thing I’m grateful for, followed by five specific reasons I love it. So for example, I might decide that I’m grateful for one of my children – and then look for five specific things that I appreciate about that child.
So far I like this approach. We’ll see how it is going forward.