Hello! This week I would like to talk about gratitude. And when we talk about gratitude, I have to mention my jar.
“I keep a gratitude jar” is not a sentence I ever thought I would use.
A Journey Towards Becoming Grateful
I started the practice recently, maybe three or four months ago. Every Friday, after work, I write a new entry on a piece of scrap paper, fold it, and place it into an old jam jar on top of my desk. I look forward to it every week, as it is a chance for me to reflect on how my week has been, and what I have to be thankful for.
This idea was brought to my attention during a session for a mindfulness group I was co-facilitating. The group was related to research being conducted on the positive health effects of mindfulness practice for those suffering with Multiple Sclerosis (see my post here relating to why this is important to me).
One of the participants told a story about how she had started keeping a gratitude jar at the request of her daughter. The advice was to write ‘I am grateful for…’ and finish the sentence, at least once a week. She loved writing notes of thanks to herself, and it became her own personal ritual that she held dear.
When I first heard the idea, I was intrigued. I wondered why anyone would write notes to themselves (who has the time?), and what – if any – benefits were involved with keeping a gratitude jar.
The Importance of Thanks-giving
Gratitude has been a hot-topic for a while now, just as mindfulness has. Countless articles point to the importance of showing how grateful you are, whether it be to others in your life or to yourself.
It’s common wisdom in today’s world that treating yourself kindly and being grateful for what you have (particularly in the developed, Western world) are two aspects that assist in bringing about a sense of peace in life, and can give us great comfort.
There’s even legitimate research on the subject that suggests that hearing something as simple as the words ‘thank you’ from your manager can make you work harder. You can read the article here for yourself. It offers some helpful ways to cultivate gratitude – which includes the mention of mindfulness, funnily enough!
It seems both common wisdom and empirical research seem to be pointing us in the direction of gratitude.
Consciously Beginning with Gratitude
One of the last topics we covered during the Conscious Beginnings mindfulness course was gratitude. You can find the course here. In the course, we learned how easy it is to slip into a ‘not enough’ mindset, and we touched on striving and giving ourselves permission to be as we are, and who we are.
Since that time, I have kept my jar. I tear off little affirmations to myself, fold them, and place them in the jar. When the jar is full, I open the jar. I read them back to myself, and reflect on where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going in my life.
There’s no real ceremony, but it feels sacred somehow.
Being grateful for what we have feels good. There’s no doubt about that. It can be hard to stop and take stock – we are all so busy, all of the time. But when we do, we can truly appreciate the moment, appreciate what is in front of us, and appreciate the chance we have: to simply be.
We get to notice our own life, and marvel at the world around us.
Stephen is a budding counsellor, avid craft beer enthusiast, and part-time Buddhist. He enjoys hiking, connecting with nature, losing himself in deep conversation, and contributing to the Conscious Beginnings blog.