For many of us with active lives, keeping a gratitude list has become yet another obligatory staple in our ever increasing list of things to do to be happy. We know we should do it so we begrudgingly carve out the time in our busy days and rush through it, often marking items as we would a grocery list, with no feeling of gratitude or appreciation whatsoever.
The act of keeping a gratitude list is futile when no authentic feelings of gratitude or joy are elicited from it and it only serves the purpose of satisfying our ego’s sense of achievement for finishing yet another task on the spiritual seeker’s To-Do list.
I caught myself in that pattern of writing emotionless grocery-gratitude lists several years ago and decided to change the name of my gratitude list to “Feelingtude List.” It was a way for me to remind myself of the importance of feeling gratitude. It reminded me that the purpose of keeping a gratitude list is not to get more stuff to feel good about, but to feel good now, with what I already have. Shifting my perspective to a more feeling oriented goal infused my list – and more importantly, me – with a vibrant joy and playfulness I hadn’t experienced from my lists before.
Below are 5 tips to help you supercharge your lists and get to the feeling place of gratitude and joy.
1. Add life to your text.
Don’t be afraid to draw, scribble, use different color pens, glue images and photos, dried flowers, or whatever else you want. If you went to a Bruno Mars concert and you had a great time, glue the ticket stub in it and write around it. This is your book, infuse your personality into it. Make it more than just a text book. Turn it into a scrapbook. Unleash your creativity and have fun with it.
2. Add details.
I have a stuffed bunny that I’ve had for over 2 decades. I have no idea where I got her, but throughout the years, when I was depressed and lonely, she gave me comfort. When I was happy and fulfilled, she brought more joy out of me. Sounds silly for a grown woman of 43 to sleep with a stuffed bunny, but I love her to death and wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars. She often finds her way into my journal and instead of writing “Bunny” and moving on to the next item in the list, I add some details: “I love waking up in the morning and finding her curled under my arm. She’s so soft and cuddly.” The details carry you deeper into the feeling of gratitude and keep you there longer.
3. Add reasons.
Why are you grateful for something? If you’ve listed your home, write about why you’re grateful for it. Does it bring security, comfort, rest? Does it give you electricity, running water, heat? Don’t just list the thing you love, list the reasons why you love it. Embellish them. Bask in them.
4. Pick something specific.
If you’re grateful for your partner, instead of writing “my sweetheart” for the hundredth time, change it up by picking something specific about them that you love. Do you love the way she looks at you and only you? Does he make you breakfast in bed on Saturdays? Sometimes being general is helpful to start the momentum of gratitude, but sometimes specificity thrusts you deeper into appreciation and elicits involvement from your physical senses, which helps you to quickly and effortlessly click in to the feeling of gratitude, especially when you re-read it months later.
5. Re-read your list often.
If you had a bad day and need a quick pick-me-up, look through your gratitude journal. The details and embellishments you’ve added will help take you immediately to the feeling of gratitude. They not only serve you in the moment of writing them, they continue to serve you as you re-read them, acting to spark your memory in a way that awakens the emotion in your heart, not just the thoughts in your head.
Here’s an example of a grocery-list entry and one that has been infused with tips 2-4 from above:
“My husband.” (General, grocery list)
“I love my husband’s smell (specific) I love holding his worn T-shirt to my face, closing my eyes and taking a long, deep breath in. I can get lost in his smell (details). I don’t know why, but it makes me feel so protected and safe. I feel comforted when I breathe him in (reasons).
When you do these 5 things, your gratitude journal moves from an activity of the mind to an activity of the heart. This daily practice doesn’t just infuse your list with vibrancy and color, it infuses your life. You gain a deeper appreciation for all things, and while it’s true, you will start receiving more things to be grateful for, you will discover that there’s no end to the amount of joy and appreciation you can feel now, no matter what you have or don’t have. The depths of joy and appreciation are endless and your gratitude journal becomes a catalyst to thrust you deeper into your joy.