One of my besties recently bought me a daily journal inspired by an author, podcaster, and overall kickass lady we both like, Rachel Hollis. Its purpose: to inspire us to become equally kickass by achieving our dreams through visualization and affirmations. Sounds powerful, right? It’s also pretty damn difficult. However, while the transformation to totally kickass is still a work in progress, the other part of the journal was more an immediate success.
Before writing your goals, journal asks users to write down five things for which they are thankful each and every day. I felt I was grateful for so much in my life, but I really liked the idea of focusing on it more purposefully for a few minutes each morning. A couple weeks in I am finding I am not bored with the repetition, but rather using it to stretch my thinking about all I have to be thankful for—this time of year and always.
I could sit in bed each morning and repeat the same five things: family, friends, a good job, a nice place to live, and coffee, of course. Writing these five things over and over would certainly be a good way to start my day because I can’t say enough how much these mean to me and how grateful I am that my family and friends have made possible my greatest joy, becoming a mother. However, I’ve tried instead to write my list differently each morning to go deeper into what it means to be grateful.
A couple days I chose to just write three things, but added specific details that stood out to me as special about each on that morning. Other days I tried to pick less obvious things that I appreciate, like the afternoon light this time of year, the smell of leaves as we run through them kicking them into the air, or the way Ian sings Disney Junior theme songs to his toys at 4:30am, which might be the one thing that keeps me from screaming at him to go back to sleep. And on some days my grateful list is more of a find-good-in-the-hard-parts list, a needed reminder that while I may be feeling stressed or sleep deprived, my life is truly good and full, I am unbelievably lucky, and people are better than the news would have me believe. It’s those days, the not so easy days, that I truly appreciate the push to complete my thankful list.
Little man, at two and a half, is far too young to read or appreciate momma’s self-help and empowerment books, but he’s at the perfect age to soak things up like a sponge and mimic any and all behaviors. So while my morning musings are sometimes personal and usually done alone (when he stays asleep or at least plays quietly until 5am), I decided to start a family tradition this November to introduce him to the idea of gratitude. Since he’s a toddler, and I had a burning desire to try out my at-home laminator, it came in the form of a thankful turkey.
Each night before bed, we ‘do our feathers’ by writing down one thing we are thankful for from the day. At his age, he still needs lots of prompting. The best way to elicit a genuine response has been to ask “What made you happy today?” or “What was the best part of today?” His answers have ranged from pretty silly, “Momma’s water bottle,” the one he’s not supposed to drink from; to genuine, “the restaurant,” after a dinner out with my parents where he got to have chocolate milk and sit at a booth; to melt your heart, “having pizza with Papa here,” with Papa said in a way that made it obvious he was the real prize.
I always share my answer, too, so he hears what I am grateful for that day, and we’ve even gotten his grandparents involved on nights they are over for dinner. Each feather is then labeled with the person’s name and the date, so I can save a few gems to laugh at in years to come!
By the time we reach Thanksgiving, my journal will be a regular routine, our paper turkey will be pretty plump, and we’ll both have probably memorized (and be tired of) the three books I’ve been reading him about being thankful. Most importantly, I will have planted the seed of gratitude so we will both recognize just how much we have to be thankful for—most especially each other.
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