“Why do bad things always happen to me?”
“I’ve got nothing worth living for, and nobody cares about me.”
These are just some of the thoughts I never have anymore. These are the thoughts of the weak, the ungrateful, and the miserable. They are weak because they don’t think to be strong; they are ungrateful because they don’t know what they have; they are miserable because they allow these thoughts to camp in their heads.
To paraphrase the inadvertent rebel Martin Luther, “You cannot prevent the ravens of misery from flying overhead, but you can damn sure keep them from making a nest in your hair.” One of the best ways I know is to keep a gratitude journal.
If I asked you to name ten things you’re grateful for in your life, you could get it done damn fast. No matter what your circumstances, there are people you care about, circumstances that work in your favor, or aspects of your body you are happy about.
Now, if I asked you to name a hundred things for which you’re grateful, it might get trickier. Given enough time, though, I imagine you could find them.
The process of filling a gratitude journal is simplicity itself. Every day, usually first thing in the morning, you come up with ten things off the top of your head. It could be a great night’s sleep, a fresh cup of coffee, great videos on YouTube, whatever makes you happy. You jot them down, and in three minutes you’re positive and headed into a great day.
How can it be that simple? For whatever reason, we tend to let negative thoughts take over our minds. I could ask you about ten things that suck, and you’d rattle them off in seconds. But positive thoughts need reinforcement to take such prominence. By recalling positive things and recording them by hand, you mark them “important” in your mind, and they become stronger thoughts. If you do it every day, those thoughts become stronger and stronger in your mind, until they absolutely dwarf any negative thoughts you have throughout the day.
Examples: 10 Things I’m Grateful For
Don’t believe me? Here are ten things for which I’m personally grateful, churned out as fast as I can type them:
1. I am grateful that I have a glass full of pure fresh water right by my computer
2. I am grateful that I have a computer with which I can write this list
3. I am grateful that my computer can connect to yours through the Internet
4. I am grateful that I have so many excellent songs at my fingertips while I write this
5. I am grateful that I have a functional stove and cookware with which to prepare the dinner I will enjoy
6. I am grateful that I have a father who taught me to cook
7. I am grateful that I know that I am gluten intolerant, so I can avoid foods that make me feel ill
8. I am grateful that I have generally excellent health today
9. I am grateful that I have cream to put in my coffee today10. I am grateful that I have enough blankets to keep me warm, and enough A/C to keep me cool
According to my clock, that took me all of 2 minutes and 48 seconds to write. That’s why I’m happy today.
All you need for this simple exercise are a few simple tools:
- A notebook in which to keep these records
- A pencil or pen to write with
- A place to put these things so that you can easily whip the journal out first thing in the morning
That’s it. Spare five minutes of your time, while you’re just getting up, to record even the simple things that make you happy or content, and you will naturally start to be grateful for all the wonderful things you never noticed before.