Don't Ever Wrap Up Gratitude
Gratitude Should Always Be Part--an Important Part--of Our Life…
…but this is the last day of RosieCentral’s Gratitude Month. So rather than slowing down our emphasis on gratitude in our lives, we want to send you off on your journey into the future with the idea of journaling about gratitude.
You Can Find Many Prompts…
…for your gratitude journaling on the Internet. And we urge you to do that. But rather than repeat what you can find other places, we’d like to share with you a different approach to gratitude journaling.
As some of you may know, Kendra and I are the authors of an innovative and award-winning book called Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep. The inspiration for us as writing coaches was to find way for memoir writers to dig deeper into their stories.
We now want to offer a modified version of our approach as a way to write in your gratitude journal. Why? It will help you understand gratitude and fully immerse yourself in its various elements. It will let you go well beyond the typical:
Who was kind to you today?
What was stressful today and who helped you get past the situation?
What in your life are you grateful for today?
…once you see how to use our Gratitude Alchemy approach, you’ll be able to take many of the existing lists of prompts and work them into this framework. For example, in the 3 point list above: "Who was kind to you today?" belongs in the People element. The "What was stressful today and who helped you get past the situation belongs in the combination of the People and Emotions elements.
OK. Let’s Get Started
Gratitude Alchemy has five components:
Time and Place
When you write in your gratitude journal, you can start with any of these components. Use lists and bulleted points. There is no need to get bogged down in perfectly crafted sentences and intriguing paragraphs. The Gratitude Alchemy approach is meant to help you feel gratitude more deeply.
For convenience, let’s go through the five components in order.
Think of a person you are grateful to have in your life. Be specific about a memory of a time when you felt the gratitude. It could be from today or it could be from any other time.
What did she do and why do you feel grateful to her? Be sure to include her full name and even a nickname that you may use.
Then start going deeper into the memory by describing the person in the time when you felt your gratitude for her:
What was she wearing?
What was she doing?
What’s her age?
What’s her personality?
What’s her relationship to you?
What are a few characteristics about her that you like?
Are there characteristics about her that you don’t like? Is so, what?
You get the point. The more specific you are about the person you are expressing gratitude for, the deeper you will feel the gratitude.
When your gratitude is about a person, you can use this approach.
Think of a time, perhaps from today, when you felt grateful.
What situation made you feel grateful? Write it down and keep it in mind as you continue with the other prompts below. They will help you to explore the role of emotions and gratitude — again letting you go deeper and understand and value gratitude more:
What was your emotion before feeling grateful?
How did your emotion change?
What was your strongest emotion after you had the gratitude experience?
How long did you feel the change in your emotions?
Don’t worry about sentences. Just write a list of your changing emotions during the experience. At first, you may not think about changes in your emotional state. You might be thinking, “I was unhappy all day.” “I was exasperated with my co-worker.” “I was lonely.” Etc. But when you begin to dig deeper, you’ll find small changes throughout that day. For example: You feel joy when waking and seeing a sunny day out the window that is followed by anger when the car won’t start and you realize you’ll be late for work to sadness when a phone call tells you of a best friend’s cancer diagnosis.
Emotions can be likened to a musical score. The same note does not repeat over and over throughout the song. There are high notes, mid-range notes and low notes. Even the length of the note varies from the longest whole note to the very brief 64th note.
And so it is with our emotions. They result in psychological and even physical changes that may direct our behaviors. For example, when the emotion is anger, your blood pressure increases.
When you laugh your body changes with the intake of extra oxygen, your heart, lungs, and muscles are stimulated, and there is an increase in endorphins.
When focusing on the gratitude element of emotion, write your emotions about the particular gratitude experience using a list.
To help you start writing about the emotions associated with an experience of gratitude, I'm including some of the important emotions to get you started: affection, alarm, alienation, ambivalence, anger, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, apathy, appreciation, attraction, awe, bliss, boldness, boredom, calmness, caring, caution, cheerfulness, closeness, compassion, confusion, contempt, contentment, courage, cruelty, curiosity, delight, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, discovery, dislike, disgust, doubt, dread, ecstasy, elation, embarrassment, empathy, emptiness, enjoyment, enthusiasm, envy, epiphany, euphoria, exasperation, excitement, familiarity, fanaticism, fear, friendliness, frustration, generosity, gladness, gratification, gratitude, greed, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, homesickness, hope, hostility, humiliation, hurt, hysteria, inspiration, interest, irritation, isolation, jealousy, joy, kindness, longing, loneliness, love, melancholia, modesty, nostalgia, obligation, optimism, panic, patience, pessimism, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, rejection, relief, remorse, repentance, repulsion, resentment, righteous indignation, sadness, satisfaction score, self-pity, serene, shame, shyness, submission, suffering, surprise, suspicion, sympathy, tension, trust, understand, vengefulness, wonder, worry, zest.
We’re involved in conversations all the time. Usually it is between people. However, sometimes it is internal dialogue that you have with yourself. Looking back on today or yesterday, think of a conversation you had that you can express your gratitude for.
First, help your memory by setting the scene. Who did you have the conversation with — it might even be a conversation you overheard that gave you a new insight or something else to be grateful for.
Write the conversation that led to a feeling of gratitude.
Write what each person said.
Be true to the style and language of you and the other person.
Be specific. You may not remember the exact words, but you will recall the intent and emotions.
What does this do for your sense of gratitude? By writing down the conversation surrounding an act of gratitude, you will recall more of it and come away with a heightened state of gratefulness.
As you know, the five senses are:
This Gratitude Alchemy component helps open memory to the specifics of the gratitude you felt. Although a lot of depth comes from considering our five senses associated with a particular instance of gratitude, for now you might:
In your memory, think of the gratitude you want to acknowledge.
Look around you in your re-imaging of the situation. What sight(s) do you see?
What sounds are in the place?
Are there any particular aromas? Anything you smell?
What taste do you remember? Even when food is not involved, we sometimes recall a taste of anger or regret.
Do you recall a touch? Did you reach out for the other person. She did give you a hug?
Not all five senses are relevant to any particular gratitude situation. However, going through the sensory details often helps you recall more and seat the situation — the feeling of gratitude — more firmly. Later, when acknowledging gratitudes in your life, you will recall the instances where you have evaluated and enumerated the sensory details.
TIME AND PLACE
Specify the time and place of any gratitude you choose to write about. Our lives, our actions, our thoughts, our experiences are all shaped by and in time and place. This pair of elements nourish each other and our appreciation of a specific gratitude in our lives.
When you write about time:
You might consider time to be either objective (2 pm) or subjective (the end of a long stressful day).
When you write about place:
You might think of it in terms that are geographical, psychological, or emotional. Any or all of these may be valuable for you.
JOURNALING YOUR GRATITUDE
We hope you end this RosieCentral Month of Gratitude and Thanks with new perspectives and knowledge about the importance of gratitude in everyone’s life. We know your life and the lives of those you know will be the better for your expression of gratitude.
And if you choose to begin a Gratitude Journal, we believe using the five components of Gratitude Alchemy will allow you to get the most of all your experiences.