The Gratitude Box

It's one thing to offer gratitude and say, "Thank You" to someone else, but it takes a heck of a lot more to give gratitude to ourselves. 

John F Kennedy once said, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the high appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." Now more than ever, we need more of that genuine thankfulness.

This past Thanksgiving, I posed the question of: what if we shared this level of gratefulness everyday?

My friend Anna does, and there are some big time benefits. Check out how a daily practice held within a box can allow you to notice more good outside of that box. It's like Thanksgiving everyday, but better and with a different kind of cranberry sauce. -emidobz

A funny thing happened when I started recording gratitude every day: I became a more grateful person.

Take a trip back in time with me to the end of 2011. Obama was still President, “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele was the song, and Instagram was an app that only a few friends had. I was 26 and coming off a time of change in my life. I’d started a new job in September and ended a significant relationship in December. Hindsight being what it is, it’s easy for me now to see that as 2012 grew closer, I was heartbroken, anxious, and unsure of what to do about either one of those feelings. The most comforting thing I could think of then (and now) is spending time with my family in my hometown of Indianapolis, IN. Luckily, that is exactly what I got to do during the holidays that year.

It was during that few days at home when my mom and I decided to make Gratitude Boxes. I was blogging at the time and had come across a craft on Design*Sponge that appealed to me as a writer called diy project: Vintage Post Card Calendar Journal. The person who came up with the idea struggled to make time for journaling as an adult and so she devised a very cute, very easy way to make jotting down one thing that happened every day manageable: find a box, fill it with 365 lined note cards, and devote each line to one day of the year.

My mom and I are both avid journalers, so instead of using this as an incentive to journal we decided to morph this project into a place where we could write down what we are grateful for each day with only one catch: there had to be at least one thing on the line every day. It would be a positive practice for me to focus on the bountiful good in my life, not to mention that making the boxes - finding the postcards, cutting and dating the notecards, finding a box - was a fun project to do together. If you’re interested, here’s where I wrote about making them.

On January 1, 2012, I started writing down at least one thing every day that I am grateful for. I’ve been at it ever since, filling the first round of notecards with scribbles of thanks from every day of 2012-2015. With a few days left in 2015, I set out to make a “refill” of note cards to start 2016 on a grateful note, as I had the previous 4 years. As for what I write down every day, well, it’s an eclectic mix of things, events, sightings, and feelings that run the gamut from almost forgettable to borderline life changing. There are several shoutouts to good parking spots and long, winding walks home. My beloved apartment gets a lot of attention, as do texts/calls/emails from my family. I give thanks when the bath water in my old apartment gets hot enough to my liking and when new magazines come in the mail on a day that’s ripe for reading in the park. I note compliments that come out of the blue when I need them most and accomplishments at work. I’m grateful for safe travel, new jewelry, sunny days, running into friends, and so on and so on.

As much as I love the practice of reviewing my day for moments of gratitude, I equally love seeing what I wrote on the line(s) above from previous years. It’s been especially fun to look back during the first few months of this year, as it was early 2016 when I started dating my boyfriend, Brian. Things about him are now regularly noted on the line of the day. 

I’ve learned two very important lessons from this practice. The first is that as you start to take note of gratitude - as in, actually write it down - you notice more of the good in your life. Even on the most discouraging, exhausting, gray/rainy days - I do live in Portland - there are things (yes, plural) to be grateful for. So many things, that I often have to vet what actually makes it on the card. The more I’m aware of what’s positive, the less I dwell on the ‘stuff” that brings me down, the shitty parts of life that everyone experiences but they cannot change.

 The second is to be a more gracious person to others. Try to look for the ways you can make a small impact in someone’s day; those are the things just might end up on their note card, after all! I give a lot more genuine compliments, I try really hard to look people in the eye and listen when they talk to me, and I honk my horn less. For the most part ;-)

I wasn’t expecting for this simple craft to impact my life in such a big way, but little by little, it has. I encourage you to give it a try yourself and see how recording gratitude affects your life. You don’t have to make notecards and put them in a box; it can be as simple as writing on a piece of paper that you keep near your bed or on your desk. It can be typed. It can be in whatever form that works best for you. I would love to hear your experience! -Anna Reed


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