What ‘gratitudes’ are, and why you should try them

This practice is a great New Year’s resolution that is easier than most but still full of health benefits.
Courtesy of bossgirlbujo on Instagram

If you’re into agendas, stationery or journaling, you’ve probably run into the word ‘gratitudes’ while scouring for the best 2017 planner. This trend in the list-loving world appears as full-fledged “gratitude journals,” smartphone apps and “a happy memory from this week” box in daily planners.

The principle is simple: you keep track of the things you’re thankful for or happy about at any given time. It’s like Thanksgiving, minus the football and delicious feast. However, by making it an active practice and not just a once-a-year tradition, it forces you to think beyond the typical answers of friends, family, faith and health.

You start to think about how happy you are that your favorite band wrote lyrics that speak directly to your soul, that the local restaurant you love so much is just a short drive away or that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is on Netflix (OK, maybe that last one is just me).

The typical gratitudes also become more individualized. “I’m grateful for my family” becomes “I love seeing the way my mom smiles after she makes a bad joke.” “I’m grateful for my friends” becomes “I’m so glad that I have someone I can text a meme to at 3 a.m. and they’re totally cool with it.”

A common gratitude practice is to record one gratitude per day. Making it a challenge to find a daily gratitude can also help you gain a more optimistic view of life (something a lot of us are looking to regain after 2016). For example, life coach Chris Winfield writes on his blog that after doing about 1,000 daily gratitudes, he started to see people being rude to him as a way to “be grateful that they were showing me a good example of who I don’t want to be.”

Daily gratitudes aren’t the only way to channel your inner optimist. While I love that my planner reminds me to write a happy memory from the past week on Sundays, my favorite way to remember the little things I’m happy for is to keep notes on my phone related to certain themes.

I started keeping them in autumn because it’s my favorite season, and I couldn’t keep all of the reasons why I was excited for it floating around in my head, so I decided to get them all down in a note called “Things I like about fall.” It has the staples, like pumpkin pie and corn mazes. But it also has some of my favorite, individualized little things about life during fall, e.g. “being able to cozy up with a hot drink for the first time in a while — my mug collection reaches its finest moments,” “rewatching Halloween episodes of Parks and Recreation” and “acoustic and coffeehouse playlists never feel more apt.”

I’ve recently started a “Things I like about winter” note as well (the serene stillness, that feeling when you walk inside from the cold and you suddenly feel the warmth and take your coat and scarf off to adjust, the New Year’s “Twilight Zone” marathon). I love keeping these lists, and they’re one of the best ways to take the positivity in my head and make it tangible.

Seasons are a great starting point, but you can go anywhere with this concept. You could make “Things I like about…” lists for places (Columbia), people (your best friend) — literally any noun (dogs, cats, Harry Potter, art museums, the MLB, MOVE Magazine). The other great thing about lists is they can reside in your phone’s notes app, or on a beautifully decorated and handwritten notebook page.

With 2017 right around the corner, keeping track of ‘gratitudes’ is a great New Year’s resolution. Writing down what you’re happy about or thankful for, whether daily, weekly or whenever you feel excited about something, is a lot easier to commit to than a diet or running a 5K before class every day. However, it still has plenty of health benefits. Writing down what you love is a way to release stress, calm down before bedtime and channel some optimism (and certain studies argue that being an optimist will help you live longer).

So, go ahead: Counteract the negativity 2016 threw at the world and begin 2017 with a more grateful outlook. P.S. — I’m grateful you read this article!

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