Feeling thankful does not involve having to go out and buy a ‘gratitude journal’. Some people say that this just encourages today’s self-absorbed tendency to write about yourself, when you could be out there doing good for others. Years ago, people did not use gratitude journals. They just had an inner sense of feeling grateful for their lot, politely said ‘thank you’ if someone did something nice, and lived their life. It could do the world of good, if we returned to that era.
What’s happening with the explosion of gratitude journals is that it’s encouraging people to stuff down their negative feelings, which is never a good thing. One woman wrote online how as a teenager, she attended a rock concert with friends. Fainting from the heat, she was pulled out of the crowd by security, before likely being crushed to death. Her friends stayed behind to enjoy the concert and due to no mobile phones at the time, they then went home. Some suggest she should have gone home and wrote in her gratitude journal how ‘thankful she was to be alive’. But in fact, she was annoyed nobody came to find her!
Others say that buying a gratitude journal just creates another thing on your busy ‘to-do list’. It would be a far simpler (and likely) happier world, if everyone just was thankful for their lot, had some manners (say ‘thank you!’) and saved the gratitude for private prayer of whatever faith is important to you.
Gratitude is about the way I position myself toward my own life, other people, creation, the world and the Divine. Although some days are truly difficult, most of us need only one minor detail to go wrong, to become cranky and negative. If I begin to identify what is doing some good in the world, then my perception shifts away from negativity. I don’t deny that I was in a serious accident that year, but I also remember the care I received while I was recovering. I don’t try to erase the history of my depression, but in that history I include the conversation that comforted me, the day beside the lake that helped me breathe and hope a little more. Vinita Hampton-Wright