20) Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

For most of my life, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I love watching football, playing games, gathering with friends and family, helping prepare a delicious feast, and then eating all the tasty dishes. More than that, however, I enjoy the celebration because it provides an opportunity to think about all the reasons I am thankful.

This year, rather than limiting my appreciation to one day, I decided to keep a daily gratitude log for one month. Though I am extremely fortunate and have much to be grateful for, thinking of a very distinct aspect of my life for thirty days wasn’t always the easiest task. While I always make an effort to show appreciation for things like birthday gifts or being treated to dinner, I seldom consider some of the fortunes that have been a standard all my life, like having convenient food sources or potable tap water. Only when I forced myself to reflect on every aspect of my life did I truly appreciate some of the things I am lucky to have. What follows are a few selections from my month-long journal:

Hiking at 16,000 feet is tough, but worth it!

Hiking this high is tough, but worth it!

Day 4: I am thankful for my legs. Admittedly, I find it easy to want to despise my legs, having battled shin problems for nearly a decade following simultaneous tibial stress fractures I sustained while running cross country and track in college. My legs have inspired me to curse, yell, cry, become depressed and loathsome, and contemplate surgery. In short, have spent a great deal of time and effort not appreciating them. Despite all the issues, pain and frustration my legs have caused me, I am grateful for them. Though my shins still bother me on occasion, and I’m unable to run as much as I’d like, I can still do so many things. I can go for a bike ride along the Santa Monica beach boardwalk. I can trek through the jungles in Thailand. I can hike to 16,300 feet in the Andes. I can SCUBA dive and snorkel with ease. I can ride horses and elephants and donkeys. I can dance! (Well, no, not really, but I can try!). When I focus on what I can do rather than on what I can’t, I realize how many wonderful activities I can do thanks to my legs.

hiking 069Day 8: I am thankful for having the means and desire for backpacking. There is little that is more satisfying than stuffing everything I need for twenty-four hours into a pack, slinging it over my shoulders and trucking off into the wilderness. Taking a solo trip is especially fun! I love experiencing nature, seeing wild animals in their natural habitats, “roughing it” a bit, testing my survivor mettle a tad, and taking a step back from modernity to our ancestral roots. Cooking food over a fire; gazing at the night sky unimpeded by city lights; listening to chirping birds or grasshoppers rather than sirens and arguing neighbors; and snuggling up in my sleeping bag, zipping it all the way up to my chin, and seeing the stars through the tent one last time before falling asleep is pretty unbeatable. I am thankful for such fantastic, unique experiences that backpacking offers.

Pepper, the awesome dog I got to grow up with.

Pepper, the awesome dog I grew up with.

Day 14: I am thankful for dogs. They come in various sizes, colors, temperaments and breeds, but they all make me smile. Dogs are the most loyal of companions, the perfect exercise partners; and superb listeners–my secrets are always safe with a dog. I believe dogs enrich the lives of everyone, and I am grateful for their presence on Earth. I was fortunate to grow up with a wonderful, fun and smart Chesapeake Bay retriever.

Day 19: I am thankful for movies. And the creative minds that make them. I am thankful to live in a society where people are afforded the opportunities to create masterful, poignant, thought-provoking, emotional, mysterious, hilarious, historical and evocative films which I am able to view. At their worst, motion pictures can be banal two-hour time sucks. At their best, they can transport viewers to another time and another place filled with historical or newly invented characters. They can grip viewers’ minds, throats and hearts; move them to the edge of their seats; confuse, amuse, paralyze and entertain them; and create diversions or new perspectives. Films are capable of offering viewers so many wonderful things, and I am grateful for getting to see them nearly as often as I’d like. Hopefully one day I’ll play a bigger role in the world of film than merely being a viewer.

Day 20: I am thankful for having the five senses. My nose delights in smelling the wonderful aroma that wafts through the house when I’m baking chocolate chip cookies. My mouth savors every hint of sweetness and every iota of saltiness when I’m feasting on sushi. My eyes are mesmerized by ribbons of pink, orange and purple that light up the sky at sunset. My ears are treated to striking chords, inspirational notes and evocative melodies when I’m listening to my five favorite film scores. My skin luxuriates in soft, warm fabric when I’m wrapped in my favorite blanket. I am grateful for the heightened life experiences my senses afford me, and will cherish them as long as I have them.

One of South Africa's stunning sunsets.

One of South Africa’s stunning sunsets.

What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments!

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5 thoughts on “20) Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal

  1. I am thankful to have 2 loving, smart daughters who challenge me to be a better person, a better mom and granny!

  2. Love your detailed descriptions of what you’re grateful for! I started journaling each night using the prompt “I’m so glad …” and it’s amazing what a difference it actually makes. I think I will switch to doing it in the morning though since that’s when I seem to be at my grouchiest and most pessimistic.

    • Thanks! And good for you for writing every night what you’re glad about. Is it something you’re doing for a set amount of time? I suppose if I was really ambitious I would do it every day, but thirty days was a great exercise for me. I also think it’d be great to write in the morning, though it would likely be more challenging!

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