Sometime last year, I saw a Facebook meme that suggested creating a “gratitude jar,” where once a week you’d write down one good thing you’re thankful for. I decided to take up the challenge. Here are some of my observations from a year observed via positive Post-It Notes.
Why Even Do This?
I was in a bit of a down mood a year ago, so I thought I could use regular reminders to myself that good things can and do happen in my life, regardless of my current mental state. I also turned 50 this year, so that seemed like as good an excuse as any to track what sort of a year I had. And there’s the old adage, “Be thankful for what you have.”
The ingredients for such a project were simple: a jar, glass, or other receptacle; 52(ish) sticky notes; pen(s) as needed. I also added a weekly reminder to myself to make sure I followed up on the task: “What good thing happened this week? Write it down!”
Observations on My Idea of Good Things Happening
I’m not certain exactly when I started this activity, though presumably it was the first weekend in January. I ended up with 54 notes in my jar, meaning I either had an extra fun week or wrote something down earlier in the week, forgot that I did so, and added something else. No complaint on that score–good things are good to have, right?
In seeking out common themes, I noticed that my primary “good things” were experience related (19 notes), either places I visited (Melbourne, Hobbiton, New Zealand); things I did (participated in the local production of The Music Man); or sometimes even bad things that did not happen (a category 5 hurricane did not hit Florida, a bicyclist I collided with was able to walk away and I didn’t get ticketed for the incident).
The next most-common items (13) were related to people–either having family or friends in town or visiting/hanging out with them. I was quite grateful for some of the quality conversations I had with people who know me well. (Introverts need people, too–just in different ways.)
As is often the case, I was big into self-improvement this year (10 items). This included participating in seminars related to my state of mind or my writing; taking steps toward improving my health; making progress with personal projects; or sometimes just making progress on improving my state of mind.
Surprisingly, work came pretty low on the list of things I cheered about this year (7 items). That’s not to say good things didn’t happen–they most certainly did, including things like bonuses or contract extensions–just that work was not my primary focus for things I was grateful for or that brightened my spirits. Something to consider in the future: I can’t necessarily count on my job to bring me personal happiness.
Last on the list was “stuff,” meaning buying or otherwise acquiring material things, such as a chip reader for my old camera so I could extract images from it, clothes, or a new backpack–and most of these were for my vacation down under. I also bought a bunch of household items I’d needed for a long time (new pots and pans), which I finally took the time to buy. The only purely frivolous/fun item on my list was a bottle of Dom Perignon I got from a good friend for my birthday.
The only things I’d add to this entry are that I do recommend you try it. It’s not painful, and in fact it can become something to look forward to at the end of your week. You find yourself becoming mindful of good things going on, if only to remind yourself. And if you’re struggling that week–and there were a few times I could tell I was reaching–you can identify bad things that did not happen or recall simple things that made my week better (e.g. “Lots of fresh air and sunshine for long walks”). Having done this for a year, I think I’ll keep doing it. I’m still prone to off moods, and I need those positive reminders wherever I can get them…and I need to remind myself that good things are happening.