An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Making Gratitude a Daily Priority

Many years ago, when Oprah Winfrey was queen, she encouraged her viewers to make gratitude a daily priority by keeping a gratitude journal. She claimed it changed her life.

At the time I thought it was a good idea, and I even purchased a pretty notebook with a matching pen to start one of my own, but in the end I couldn't seem to stick to a routine. I didn't give the idea up entirely; I simply realized that, at that time in my life, I was busy with other things. But some day, I thought.

Then last December our trusty Dodge Neon broke down for the last time. As my husband and I were going through 17 years of memories associated with that car, it dawned on me those 17  years of memories equated to 17 years of blessings for which I'm immensely thankful ... 17 years in which I'm not sure I ever stopped to consider how grateful I should be.

I decided right then and there that 2017 would be the year I keep a gratitude journal.

And so one month into this New Year my pretty, floral journal already has 31 pages of nothing but gratitude.

I don't make a big fuss about. Each evening I write down five things for which I am grateful. Sometimes the entries are deep and introspective (a conversation with a stranger that got me thinking), and sometimes they're very, very simple (a phone call from one of the boys); sometimes I use incomplete sentences or include single word entries, but sometimes I write an entire paragraph; sometimes I print neatly, but sometimes my handwriting in no way reflects those meticulous penmanship lessons in Mr. Benanti's sixth grade class.

About the time I started keeping the gratitude journal, I also started drinking Traditional Medicinal Herbal Teas. And since an inspirational quote is written on each tea bag, I decided to end each journal entry with a Tea Quote of the Day.

I am beginning to understand how gratitude works. Once I got into the habit of pausing at the end of the day to think about those grateful moments, I started recognizing them in real time; in other words, I am learning to be grateful for things as they happen which, in turn, puts me in a different mental state. I also see how this has lead me to pray more. Maya Angelou once said that gratitude is the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer, and there have been many nights when one has lead to another.

Of course, there are those days -- you know the kind -- which may seem as if there is NOTHING good to say. Finding gratitude on those days takes a little work, and to be honest I have some entries which are more sarcastic than grateful (Monday, January 23: Grateful for NyQuil).

But that's okay because the whole thing about gratitude doesn't mean that things are perfect; rather, it's about recognizing the perfect in the imperfect. Being grateful for the sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine is no less important than being grateful for my family or for the full moon on an evening walk with Joe.

If there is one thing I am learning, it is that gratitude gives me a better perspective of my day.

No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.
- St. Ambrose

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