“If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness.” (Unknown Author)

Since I was a little girl I’ve loved putting pen to paper. Not just any pen and not just any paper – but 1.0 mm ink pens and unlined paper. I began writing notes, passed secretly amongst friends during class, in the 3rd grade and discovered the joy of a diary at about the same time. In high school and college I had more than 15 penpals from all over the world.

Writing – and the tools used for the craft – is a passion that still runs strong today.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Oprah Winfrey introduced her daily gratitude practice through use of a gratitude journal. Her message, one that has been echoed thousands upon thousands of times, is simple: If you concentrate on what you have, you will always end up having more.

Since Oprah’s introduction to the benefits of gratitude to her millions of fans, there have been countless tools, resources, articles, and even college classes about the subject. Numerous studies have shown that incorporating a gratitude practice in your life can have a profound impact on improving health and moods.

I will admit that I caught the gratitude wave hook, line and sinker. Initially, I was thrilled with an excuse to buy yet another beautiful journal, with its own special pen. I began following Oprah’s recommendations to write down three things for which I was grateful every day, first thing in the morning. I couldn’t wait to open my journal, pull out my pen.

But what started as excitement over using my beautiful new tools soon gave way to something else. I noticed that I was walking around with a smile on my face for no particular reason, I was fighting with my mom far less than was typical, and I had an overwhelming sense of calm in my life.

Could this be a result of taking Oprah’s suggestion and focusing on what I have in my life?

I have been practicing gratitude on and off since sitting on the living room floor in my parents’ suburban home, eyes glued to The Oprah Winfrey Show, taking in every word she had to say about the topic. Over the years I have learned this: gratitude is, in fact, a powerful tool. When I think about the times when I’ve been my happiest and felt the most fulfilled, it has always been while I was regularly practicing gratitude.

Incorporating gratitude in to your daily life takes very little time. It’s never too late to start, or even re-start. Here are a few things that have worked for me:

~ Keep your journal someplace where you will see it every single day. I have moved on from keeping it on my bedside table to keeping it in a basket next to the sofa in my living room as I am no longer able to write first thing in the morning, but rather at the end of the day.

~ Try to write at least three things you are grateful for every day, but don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day or two. There are no rules to break here. You need to do what works for you and go easy on yourself if you don’t get it “perfect” every day. Some days I can write nearly 20 things in my journal, other days I can write only two. And there have been times when I’ve skipped writing for days at a time.

~ If you are having trouble thinking of things you are grateful for, ask yourself the following questions:  

Did you see something beautiful today?

Has anyone done something thoughtful or kind for you today?

Was there something about today that was better than yesterday?

Has anyone truly listened to you today?

Did you taste something that was wonderful today?

Has someone inspired you?

Did you hear something that made you feel good today?

Has someone trusted you?

Did you feel loved today?

Has someone shared an idea with you?

Did you show or share love today?

~ Consider introducing gratitude to your whole family. We have a set of index cards, one for each day of the year. Every day we, as a family, try to write down what we are grateful for on that day’s card. A gratitude box or jar could work just as well.

In today’s world where so much of the news we are fed focuses on the bad and the ugly, incorporating more gratitude into our lives may just be a dose of medicine many of us can use. It certainly can’t hurt.

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