Earlier this year, I tried to make identifying five things I’m grateful for part of my pre get-out-of-bed routine. I hummed along for a few weeks, but mornings with two teenage boys can easily grow from smooth to chaotic, and a few rough starts cut into my practice.
I shifted to keeping a gratitude journal; before turning out my light for bed, I jotted down what I was grateful for that day. That notebook sits basically empty in a drawer of my bedside table. And not because I didn’t have any person or thing to be appreciative of, but the medium didn’t work for me.
Then in May I read an article in an old magazine suggesting as a new year’s resolution (I said it was old) to commit to writing a note of gratitude every day, 365 days. That idea appealed to me.
I know what you’re thinking: Chelsea, you couldn’t take time to think of five things from the comfort of your own bed. You couldn’t write down a name, accomplishment, happening, in a notebook next to your bed. How could you take on a year-long letter writing challenge?
But guess what? I did. Starting June 1st (because why wait for January 2018) I began writing a note of gratitude, appreciation, thanks every day. I have kept up that practice for almost six full months with no intention to quit. Some days it’s hard; I work from home and don’t always encounter people. On those days, I might reach out to an old friend or acquaintance. To date, I’ve sent notes to friends, colleagues, customer service providers, doctors, my sons’ teachers, and family. I’ve sent notes to people I haven’t met in person. Lawmakers who took a tough vote. My sons.
Three people have written back; not that I’m looking for reciprocity, but those cards made me smile big. Many send a text; often that text details how reading my note capped an otherwise rough day. My heart warms knowing I brought even a moment of joy in a time of stress.
Why does this system of expressing gratitude work for me whereas others failed? Well, for starters, I now have a great excuse to buy cute stationery (my favorites are BeesKneesPaperGoods and CurioPress). Also, I am a writer. So sitting down at my desk, with a box of notecards next to the computer and a journal perpetually opened to the page where I record to whom I’ve sent gratitude (yes, I keep track), the task is kind of hard to ignore. Plus, now that I’m in the habit, I look forward to writing these notes.
So if I request your snail mail address, fret not; I don’t plan to drop by unexpectedly. But do remember to check your mailbox. Oh, and in case you didn’t get such a text from me but received a note, guess what? The internet provides all sorts of personal information, including addresses. If you’re wondering, why haven’t I received a note? I did xyz nice thing for Chelsea, don’t worry. I have six and a half months of note writing ahead of me. (But I’m already feeling the tug of what next? Do I really stop?)
This morning, fortunate Americans are busily sending texts to loved ones expressing gratitude and later, we’ll give thanks for the abundance of food on our tables. Tomorrow, we’ll groan at overindulgence and curse leftovers. And both days, I’ll sit at my desk and revel in the abundance of people around me this holiday season for whom I am grateful.