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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

Journaling about and for gratitude

I have a confession to make. I’ve read about gratitude, studied gratitude with my Mussar groups, developed intentional ways to feel and express gratitude, and written about it in my book, Your Love Is Blasting In My Heart.

And yet for years I resisted the recommendation to start a daily practice of writing down things for which I’m grateful. When I learned that both Oprah and Amazon marketed gratitude journals, I wanted nothing to do with the fad. Too trendy for the 1960s rebel still alive in me.

Then I took my friend Debra’s Zoom resilience class, and one of the recommendations was to write down three things you are grateful for each day. Around the same time, my daughter, Heidi, told me that she was going to have the grandkids keep a daily gratitude journal. For a week, I still resisted. At the next class, Debra’s colleague Glenn talked about the research that indicates gratitude practice can have a long-term positive effect on the brain. It reminded me of other research I had read.

So I went back to the Internet article I had saved by Dr. Robert Emmons.* He has found, in study of people from ages eight to 80, that gratitude practice consistently creates “a host of benefits” including physical – stronger immune systems. (Who can’t use that in the time of COVID?) Then there are the psychological benefits of more joy and optimism and the social advantages – becoming more generous and compassionate.

Maybe worth a try? While I still refused to buy a journal with gratitude written in Lucinda Calligraphy on the front, I did find a pristine notebook with an attractive blue suede cover on my bookshelf. I don’t remember where I got it. Yet there it was, urging me to start writing. So I climbed into bed, propped up my pillow, grabbed a pen and the journal. Then I began reviewing my day. Could I find three things that happened that made me grateful? I wasn’t looking for miracles. It wasn’t about the parting of the Red Sea – more like the daily gift of manna for the Jews wandering in the desert.

As I focused, I was pleasantly surprised at how gratitude moments flowed easily from mind to paper. Small things –the evening rain that watered my tomatoes, a patio lunch at Bonefish Grill with good friends, sharing Mussar practices with our longstanding Thursday chevruta, socializing with a neighbor when I walked the dogs.

I invited Irv to join me in the gratitude practice, and he has. Though he doesn’t keep a journal, each night we share our three experiences of gratitude out loud. His moments of gratitude not only connect me to his day and remind me of what is important in his life – like singing – but also create awareness of the gratitude we share, like enjoying the antics of our pups.

Friday night, our grandkids, Selam and Dian, slept over, and I invited them to participate in the practice. Dian was grateful that the book our family book club was reading, The One and Only Bob, had a happy ending. Selam said she was grateful for grandparents. “You know a lot of kids don’t have any grandparents or they hardly get a chance to see them,” she informed us. My heart sang. An unexpected dividend and another reason to be grateful.

The blue notebook is now a permanent fixture on my nightstand. I am grateful to those who encouraged the practice and those experiencing it with me. Thank you!

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Aug 25, 2021

As a lapsed Catholic I no longer attend mass. However, I have always said the rosary. Many times I give thanks for Tom's patience, perfect eyesight and steady hands that allow him spend his days painting beautiful pictures. Parkinson's has forced him to trade his many tools from 60+ years as a master craftsman for paint brushes and canvases. I am grateful every day that he does not have tremors.

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