“It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Via a Jesuit priest referenced in a Brene Brown article.
Sunday dinners at my house were a big deal. My mother was the guest of honor. 6pm sharp. Table set. Family dinner before 60 Minutes aired on CBS. Mandatory attendance for my three children. One of the best things for me was my mom’s insistence that the kids clear the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher. This weekly family dinner included saying Grace followed by a question that all were required to answer.
“What was the best thing that happened this past week?”
On those Sunday evenings, I got a window into the previous week of my three bundles of joy. I worked full time so the weeks were rushed and busy with talks (and some fights) about homework, lacrosse practice and that mean kid at school.
How lucky was I on Sunday evenings to have the opportunity to learn more about what was going on with my kids when most days I couldn’t crack the code in the rush of full-time work and a single motherhood.
My mom’s Sunday night question gave my kids the opportunity to share and recognize the good in their life.
This simple weekly gratitude practice has such an impact on my happiness.
I reluctantly started are more formal and daily gratitude practice. Reluctant is an understatement. It seemed just a bunch of woo woo. Too much work. I didn't want to take the time out of my busy day. I already knew what I was grateful for.
After reading an article by Brene Brown where she shared her research that found when people commit to a practice gratitude they are more joyful, I said, why not me. I gave in.
Joy. I wanted some of that. Why wouldn’t I dive in?
What would it cost me, but a few minutes of time. The suggested gains of happiness, joy and productivity far outweighed the cost. If the power of thankful words written on paper have the ability to reframe my perspective on my life and my struggles, why wouldn’t I dive in quickly without hesitation?
So I did. I picked up a journal that was a gift from my husband after I was exiled from my CRO job in NYC. The title: It’s Gonna Be Okay. An Inner Truth Journal. On the cover is written a long paragraph that says this journal will reassure me when I’m overwhelmed by the creeping sense of impending disaster and the all-encompassing fears that there will be happiness. It was the perfect place to start sharing my gratitude when my mind was cluttered and filled with overwhelm and in fear of what was next.
I look back at those first days of my gratitude practice. I wrote the expected. Grateful for family, children, husband, friends. But as the pages turn and the days move forward, I read back my thoughts on deep love, stories to remember, hope for the future and possibilities in front of me. I wrote about issues I was having and how I wrote a better story for them and found answers to moving forward with them.
With each day’s writing, there is a depth to my gratitude. Instead of the expected ‘I love my kids,’ the number of things I wrote not only began to grow, but my statements of thanks started to grow into full sentences and even expressive paragraphs. I wasn’t just grateful for my son Teddy, I was so incredibly proud of his ability to see me deeply and provide incredible wisdom far beyond his age.
Writing about what I was grateful for became easy. It has become something I look forward to it each morning. And when I skip a day or a weekend, I’m excited to catch up.
I enjoyed my new practice. I also felt it was bringing me clarity, focus and a joy for life that I hadn't recognized until my daily writing.
Practicing gratitude is an invitation to bring joy into our lives. Do not accept the invitation to let your negative talk talk you out of starting this game changing morning ritual.
If you are so inclined to change your life and experience more joy, it’s as simple as creating a daily gratitude practice.
What’s stopping you?