Gratitude. It’s a word we tend to hear quite often this time of year. Gratitude is something that many aren’t comfortable expressing. Or perhaps, as the recipient of gratitude, we’ve felt cringey or that the person expressing gratitude was being disingenuous or wanted something in return. Or, maybe we were the ones expressing our appreciation for someone or something, and we felt awkward or vulnerable in conveying our gratitude. Well, now is as good a time as any for a gratitude adjustment.
In March 2020, during the first month of quarantine, I started a gratitude journal, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the idea of expressing gratitude on a piece of paper seemed “cringe” to me at first. Today’s world isn’t an easy place to live in, and it’s effortless to be cynical towards just about everything. And no, expressing gratitude won’t change the fact that we aren’t all created equal and that some have more privileges than others; however, it might just change your entire awareness and focus. Instead of looking outward and comparing ourselves with things we don’t always have control over, why not try harnessing that which we do have influence over, which is our mind, thoughts and intentions? What if you try to switch your mindset from being cynical to being grateful? You may be surprised by the results. And honestly, what do you have to lose?
At this point, you may be asking, “So, Taylor, how would I go about starting a gratitude journal?” Well, I’m so glad you asked. Initially, please keep it simple, but commit to doing it for one month.
Start by writing down three things in the morning that you are grateful for. Perhaps you’re thankful for getting out of bed or having a toothbrush. It may seem ridiculously simple, but the mere act of recognizing and appreciating the smallest of things will, in turn, become monumental. For instance, I’ll write 10 things I’m grateful for in the morning, then again in the afternoon and do it again right before I go to bed. Honestly, writing thirty things one is grateful for 365 days a year isn’t as arduous as it sounds. The one thing I’d urge you to do when you first start your journal is become aware of WHY you are grateful for each item you list. Your “why” gives that gratitude so much more meaning and power. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m grateful to be able to walk,” include the WHY. It should look like this: “I’m grateful to be able to walk because it enables me to (fill in the blank).” It may take an extra moment to identify your “why,” but that’s part of attaining a deeper awareness and appreciation. Just go easy on yourself and keep at it. Remember, no one is going to grade you or judge you. This is yours and is only for you.
Gratitude helps us appreciate what we are and what we have instead of what we aren’t or don’t have. It has a way of making us more consciously aware of things we might otherwise overlook or take for granted. It has made me realize how fortunate I am to have the ability to see, hear, walk, breathe, have access to education, have a support system and so much more. Gratitude has allowed me to see so much more beauty and have more patience with this crazy world. Gratitude has made me learn to fall in love with life, and most importantly, myself. I’ve gained a new sense of confidence due to gratitude. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to write for Her Campus FSU for the past three years, and in igniting my passion for writing, I’ve intersected with some amazing women. I’m grateful to the women of Gamma Phi Beta for allowing me to meet my best friends. I’m also thankful for the unknown and the possibilities and for what my future holds. I’m grateful for the mistakes I’ve made in the past, which have made me the strong and independent woman I am today. I’m grateful for the people who made life hard and made me reevaluate how to respond to challenges. I’m grateful to those who loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself. I’m grateful for the struggles because they make me more appreciative of the good times in life.
As Thanksgiving approaches and the year 2021 comes to an end, I highly encourage you to create a gratitude journal. Go out to Marshalls, Joann’s, etc., and find a journal that you will look forward to using. The more you do it, the more you will become comfortable and proficient with it over time. Notice how your focus and thoughts change over time. It might even increase your ability to express gratitude towards others routinely. And know that the best time to be grateful is always.