“I’m only as hard on others as I am…
Here’s my new year’s resolutions:
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
2. Refrain from complaining and criticizing.
The gratitude journal came first
I had read about it online and it sounded like a good idea, but I resisted getting it started. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be very good at it and I was right! The first couple of weeks I could only find one thing to write down every four days or so.
My one rule is that I can only write down those things I feel sincere appreciation for in that moment, not the things I know I should be grateful for. When I get a feeling of joy, accomplishment or gratitude, I write it down in my notebook. Example: if I get payed a compliment, if it’s a nice warm day, if I see something beautiful, if I have a nice conversation, if I think of someone I love, I write it down.
Sometimes the things I’m thankful for surprise me
One of my first entries was about the moon. I was up early to go to the airport when I noticed the full moon outside my window. It’s silent beauty caught me off guard and reminded me that there’s a whole mysterious universe beyond the weight of my luggage or the amount of cash I had in my wallet. I thanked it for the spacious feeling it gave me.
The gratitude practice keeps me attentive to what’s going on in and around me. I have to focus on good sensations, even the small ones. Then I have to name them. There are so many nice little moments in a day that pass by unnoticed. Since I started this practice, I’ve come to feel content even on a couple of crappy days. It felt unusual and nice.
Now, on to the refraining practice. It’s embarrassing to write about this because it is a big challenge for me. Yes, I complain a lot! I criticize myself, my circumstances and I complain about other people. I’m always looking for someone to blame. It feels really good, like scratching an itch. It’s a temporary escape from uncomfortable situations. It is also a bad habit that keeps me feeling completely powerless.
I read somewhere that criticizing reinforces self-criticism; that’s what inspired me to change habits. Seeing the flaw in everything makes me hyper-aware of my own flaws and ignorant of my gifts. I want to value myself more, and contribute something good to the world. I also want to be pleasant to be around.
The cool thing about these two practices is that they reinforce one another. Even though I’m just getting started, I’ve already noticed a subtle shift. For example, it’s way easier to notice those things I’m grateful for when I’m not complaining. Also, my mind feels a bit lighter, since I have to drop the usual grumpy monologue and find something else to think about and bring up in conversation. It’s also becoming obvious that I’ll have to find new ways to deal with those things I don’t like.
How is your gratitude practice? What benefits do you notice?