A New Kind of Gratitude
Episode #5 of the course A daily journal practice to become a better person every day by John Robin
“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” —Henry Ward Beecher, American reformer, abolitionist
Welcome to Lesson 5. I’m sure today, you’ll be grateful for what you’re about to learn!
Yesterday, we talked about your end-of-day reflection, which means for the next four lessons, we’ll be talking about each of the four sections you fill in as you continue to reflect on your day.
Think of your end-of-day reflection as having five parts:
1. assessing how you did on intentions from yesterday and visualization from the morning
2. filling in gratitude
3. filling in struggles
4. filling in tomorrow’s intentions
5. reflecting on an earlier part of your life
This order is important, and it’s with this order in mind that we’ll dive into today’s next lesson: reflecting on gratitude.
A New Approach to Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude practice can be passive or active.
Passive gratitude looks like this:
• Today, I am grateful for my family.
• Today, I am grateful for spring being around the corner.
• Today, I am grateful for being a good, wholesome person.
This is probably the gratitude journaling you’re familiar with. There’s nothing wrong with it, but all you’re doing here is stopping to smell the roses.
If you want to practice this kind of gratitude, then treat it as its own practice. You can take out a piece of paper anytime and fill it up with all the things you’re grateful for. This is a good idea if you’re having a bad day and need to pull yourself together.
Active gratitude, on the other hand, looks like this:
• feeling calm after using deep breathing meditation exercise during a traffic jam
• writing in 20-minute chunks—actually making writing manageable and getting in two hours total
• doing prescribed stretches for my back and feeling great for taking charge of my health
When you practice active gratitude journaling, you’re searching for the three most prominent things that happened today.
Be as specific as possible. The more specific and prominent each item is, the more it will stand out when you review later, because it will trigger strong, clear emotional memories that will help you relive the highs that are otherwise easy to forget in the rush of life.
Becoming Good at Positivity
Practicing gratitude is about developing positivity—that is, the art of orienting to the positive instead of negative.
Looking for three things every day helps strengthen your positivity muscle.
Thanks to our evolutionary makeup, we tend to fixate on the difficult things in life because those things occupy our attention. If there’s a crisis, my adrenaline goes up, and my survivalist brain is in full-on attack mode to get out of it.
This doesn’t mean being chased by a bulldog. It can mean being stressed at work or struggling with financial failure. That is actually worse than being chased by a bulldog because with the bulldog, once we’re safe, we stop panicking.
But with mounting financial woes or social stresses, especially at work or at home, our adrenaline keeps going and going and going. Guess which organ takes the brunt of it? The brain.
Thinking is a habit. It might not seem like it, but that’s just because it’s so automatic, you don’t “think” about it.
Good news: Just like we can take charge of our actions, we can also take charge of our thoughts.
This is where our new kind of gratitude practice comes in. You are seeding new thought-habits, as you learn to spin your thinking with positivity.
It’s a good practice, one you’ll be working on for the rest of your life. Even if you become as enlightened as the Dalai Lama, you’ll still be working on it.
Carrying Gratitude into Every Day
The active gratitude practice you put in every day will spill over into your tomorrows. If you end every day searching for what you are most grateful for in the day, you’ll inevitably begin every day on the lookout for these moments.
Within these moments, you’ll only deepen your gratitude for the abundance that surrounds every beat of life.
Your homework is to double down on positivity, as you search tonight for three key moments in your day for which you are most grateful.
Start cultivating these new thought-habits. Imagine that negative thinking is a garden full of weeds. Gratitude-based thoughts are beautiful flowers and trees. The more you grow and care for them, the more you’ll be inspired to weed the garden and make it more beautiful every day.
Tomorrow, we’ll turn to the next action: journaling struggles.
Recommended Highbrow course follow-up
“A Serious Person’s Guide to Positive Thinking” by Mitch Horowitz
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