How I'm hoping gratitude will change my life

It has been two weeks since Easter, and I'm finally planning to take the egg tree down off our mantlepiece and carefully pack the decorations away for another year.

Easter always sneaks up on me. It blooms, unexpectedly, out of winter darkness like a crocus popping out of the snow. Always before I expected it, and always against the odds.

Despite my unpreparedness, it is my favourite holiday. The promise of new beginnings always gives me new hope. Why don't we make Easter resolutions, instead of New Year's resolutions? The momentum of the new-growth would carry us farther than the gloom of winter.

My Easter resolution this year was to keep a gratitude journal. I've flirted with the idea for years; scribbling little notes in the margins of my journals or day planner, but I've never stuck with it for longer than a few weeks, because I've never had a concrete plan.

This year I decided I needed to be more committed.

Enough flirting, let's get serious.

I realized that if I listed three things I was grateful for every day, that would be 1095 happy things to remember over the course of a year.

I wanted a special notebook to motivate my in my quest for gratitude, so I ordered the gorgeous "Line A Day" diary from Chronicle Books, which is a perpetual diary that runs for 5 years.

Think about this: five years of daily gratitude would record 5475 happy moments.

I hope that as the years go by I will notice how my responses to gratitude will evolve, and that I will discover aspects of my life that I have previously underrated.  Maybe I will even discover the secret to lasting happiness. (One can only hope).

When I look back over a period of time and think "I have been happy" or "I have been unhappy," what I say depends completely on the mood I am in at the time.

If I am happy -- if my daughter is laughing and content, and I have had time to draw, or paint, or read -- then that moment acts as a thread to connect to all the other happy moments in my life, when I have felt similarly content.  It becomes a string of pearls extended backwards in time.

But if I am unhappy, then I am reminded of all the moments in my past when I have been sad or discontent. The past, and therefore the future, seems impossibly bleak and cold, with all those unhappy memories starting at me like reflections in a hall of mirrors.

What I want to do is focus on all my happy memories.  To do that I need to focus on being happy today, so that I can pull that pearl-string of happy memories back into my life.

I want to dwell in gratitude.

This is how I'm doing it:

1. Setting a time.

I like to write my gratitude list right before going to bed, so that I can fall asleep surrounded by happy memories.  So that I don't forget (and I forget everything nowadays) I set a reminder on my phone to go off at 9.30pm.  I'm usually asleep by 10pm.

2. Three unique things.

I try to make my items unique. So, if I'm grateful for a cup of coffee for the third day in a row, I try to think of something special about it. Maybe holding the warm cup in my hands. Or the smell. Or the ritual of preparing it.  That way I can explore as many aspects of the things I love as possible and not get bored in occasional repetitiveness of the process.

3. Really being grateful.

Once I've written my list I pause for a moment and I actually say "thank-you" for those things I've just written down. That way I can internalize the gratitude and not write the lists mindlessly (though some evenings I'm so exhausted I'm happy if I can put pen to paper.)

If you liked this post, pin it, share it, tweet it... or just leave a comment to say hello!