Throughout the month of August, I’ll be focusing on gratitude, one of the twelve spiritual practices I tried to cultivate in Flunking Sainthood. But this time, it’s going to take a village.
In Flunking Sainthood, my practice of gratitude was supposed to be the bunny slope of my year’s experiments. Lured by research data that suggested that grateful people live longer, enjoy better sleep and better sex, and evince more optimism about the future, I spent a month trying to cultivate gratitude by writing down the things I was thankful for.
I was able to keep the letter of the law with that practice –- I did write regularly in my journal -- but I often felt like a failure anyway, because my gratitude journal showed to me so clearly that the things I was generally grateful for were shallow and fleeting. I felt more grateful about being upgraded to first class on an airplane, for example, than for the health I routinely enjoy. It turns out that it’s relatively easy to express thanks, but a lot harder to really mean it day in and day out, from the bottom of your heart. We can take it for granted that we will always take things for granted.
So I get a do-over! Gratitude is a lifelong spiritual practice, and it’s one I hope to sustain for a lifetime. But it starts with three concrete things in August:
- Every day, I’ll write down five things I am grateful for. You can do this privately in a Gratitude Journal or publicly on the Flunking Sainthood Gratitude Challenge Facebook page. (I just started the page on Monday and we already have over 350 folks signed up, so that’s something I am grateful for today.)
- Every day, I will write a note of thanks to one person whose acts of love and kindness have blessed my life. (Yeah, a text message counts. Let’s not get all Martha Stewarty here.)
- I’ll review my gratitude journal each day to remind myself of all the great things happening in my life.
Of these, the main thing is the first one. Let’s all try to write down five things we’re grateful for each day in August. Five isn’t a lot, but the mere act of counting our blessings every day can be transformative. I heard this from a reader yesterday who had just signed on to the challenge:
I don't know you but I am jazzed about the gratitude thing. Five years ago when I was in a major depression, a friend ordered me to start a gratitude journal and write 5 things every day. I did, dutifully, and it helped.
I still do it, not daily, but this will get me back in the habit. Thanks for enlisting us. --L
So take the Gratitude Challenge! You can “like” the Facebook page and also sign up here for daily emails from Paraclete Press, offering inspirational boosts and thoughts on gratitude to help you on the path.
I hope you’ll let me know how it’s going, and please help spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.
The thank you image is from Shutterstock.com. Thank you, Shutterstock!