By Oretta Croushore, Property Manager for Home Rental Services
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh.
With Thanksgiving on the horizon, we tend to drizzle the words “thankful” and “grateful” like they are the gravy to the mashed potatoes of life. Teachers like to have their classrooms make little construction paper turkeys. On each feather, the teacher instructs the kids to list things for which they are thankful. Around the Thanksgiving table, many families take turns sharing something for which they are thankful. In November, social media outlets are full of gratitude challenges. Post something every day in November for which you feel gratitude. I love all of this. Life is busy. I think it’s a great reminder to stop and acknowledge the good in your world.
The Gratitude Jar
Two years ago in November, at the height of the pandemic, Kandy visited each of the HRS family at our homes. She did a porch drop off of a special gift. She made all of us gratitude jars. She decorated a mason jar with some colorful ribbon and filled it with cut up slips of colorful paper.
The instructions were simple. Each day, every family member writes on a piece of the paper, something for which they are thankful and put it in the jar. On Thanksgiving day, you read the slips aloud. We all know how dark many of those days were in 2020. By November, we all needed a little reminder to count our blessings.
I was learning about manifesting, being more in tune with the universe (and other ideas that left my friends with that concerned look in their eyes.) I tried to be reassuring when I said, “don’t worry, I won’t be dancing naked in the full moonlight… unless you think we should.” Time and again, what I heard in these teachings was the importance of gratitude.
In a nutshell, the universe is less likely to want to give you something you ask for if you don’t appreciate the stuff you have. Whoa! It’s not a foreign concept. Most of us have said something similar to our children. As adults, we don’t usually get such direct and slightly harsh explanations. I felt a little called out. Then I realized, that’s probably a good indicator that I needed to start making some lists.
Venting and Blessings
I consider myself a grateful person. I am also a “venter”. I need to talk things through because if I don’t they will take over my thoughts until I am certain the guys in the white coats will come for me. Venting is healthy but, at its core, it’s also a form of complaining. I asked myself, do I acknowledge my blessings as much as I vent my frustrations/concerns/problems? I heard a pretty clear NO in my head.
I gave myself a challenge. Every night before I went to bed, I would write down at least five things I’m grateful for. I love a great journal. I don’t use them in a traditional way. I finally realized for me, having one place to put the random things I want to journal at that time works best for me. I do have a fear that something will happen to me and my family will find it. Not because it’s full of dark secrets but more because it looks a lot like my brain works. A lot going on at one time, various thoughts, and a lot of creative expression. I decided this section didn’t need to be decorated to the hilt like my book log did, for instance. As soon as I called myself out and decided I could use more gratitude in my life, I knew I needed it now. No delays.
The first week or so, I was feeling pretty good. I was happy to be tackling something new as well as to be making a better connection to the universe. Most days in those first few weeks, I could come up with at least three things, no problem. The thing no one prepared me for was the bad days. The days where everything went wrong, I was angry, depressed, tired, didn’t feel well, or Mercury was retrograding all over me. Those are the days I would sit there staring at the page. My first thought was to throw down my pen and say “forget this.” Then, this little voice in my head said “if it’s hard, I think that is the time you need to do it the most.” I realized that voice held all the truth in that moment.
Down times are the hard times.
It’s the times when we feel like we have nothing to feel thankful for that we need to look harder. Not every gratitude is exotic and sexy. Sometimes, it’s simply being grateful that you woke up today or you have food to eat. Not everyone is so lucky.
There are some powerful studies on the benefits of practicing regular gratitude. I came across this article from PositivePsychology.com. Benefits of Gratitude: 28+ Surprising Research Findings. I don’t even think kale has 28 benefits! Gratitude sure leaves a better taste in my mouth.
I’m sure you’re dying to know how things went with the gratitude jar…
I presented the concept to my family. They gave me a look like “Mom’s been researching with the hippies again.” I left it in the kitchen in a central spot and wondered if I would open the jar on Thanksgiving and only see my own entries. I left a few notes around the house reminding us all to find gratitude every day. My household consists of my husband, our teenage daughter, and my mom. Mom’s always up for anything, so I figured she would participate. My hubby has a kind heart but is not the kind of guy who will “gush”. Teenagers are unpredictable so I wasn’t sure if it would be a “this is cool” or *eyeroll* “this is so dumb.”
I will tell you, I was pleasantly surprised when we opened that jar. We dumped it in the middle of the table and took turns reading them aloud. Initially, I had that pang of fear I get when I read my own words out loud in front of others (Hello middle school angst. Nice to see you again.) Then, I started to hear their words. Everyone participated and everyone spoke from the heart. My heart swelled to hear them acknowledging their own gratitude.
In case you are wondering, I do not have journals full of gratitude. I will say I feel like the challenge helped me learn to acknowledge little moments throughout the day. I picture writing my gratitude on a Post-it and pinning it to a cork board in my brain.
As I started thinking about writing this blog and researching, I realized it might be time to challenge myself again. I challenge you to do the same. Take 10 minutes for yourself at some time in your day that works best for you and try to think of 3-5 things for which you are truly grateful. Little things, big things, it doesn’t matter. Start to notice how your energy shifts as you call out your own gratitude. I think you will be surprised, like Piglet, to find out your heart can hold an infinite amount of love for the world around you.
Here’s to a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May your turkey be moist, your gravy have no lumps, and your family drama be absent. Most of all, may your gratitude jar overflow.