I’m kicking off the Happiness Series with one of my absolute favorites — Expressing Gratitude. I’m grateful for so many things in my life, and I often think about how lucky I am in so many ways. However — I also think a lot about injustices, worries, fears, insecurities… The truth is, our heads are always full of both good and bad thoughts, so thinking about what I’m grateful for just isn’t enough. This activity begins with the most important word: expressing.
In the book, The How of Happiness, professor Lyubomirsky describes research that shows how expressing gratitude can not only bolster positive emotion and happiness, but it can also have health benefits. Sounds like a win-win to me! This is such a simple activity and it was delightful to set aside time in both my journal and my photography to intentionally and mindfully express my gratitude.
As you probably guessed, spending time focusing on what I am grateful for did indeed help me feel happier. 🙂 I think what surprised me was how it also fed my creativity! I tried different ways of expressing my gratitude, which helped me explore not only how I want to express it, but also how I want to reflect back on my gratitude in the future. This was something I hadn’t considered when I started this activity!
I found that putting some creativity behind the activity means I am spending much more time being mindful within the space of gratitude. You’ll see below that I tried various creative ways to express my gratitude to try and understand what works best for me.
I had already been practicing making a very simple, short list of things I am grateful for in bullet format. (In the photo below, I decided to show my March list, since it’s several weeks of entries). This is really nice because it only takes a moment, but after really thinking about this — is this the best way to reflect in the moment about what you’re grateful for? I decided that this bullet-list format is best suited for:
My next activity was to sit down and write about a specific thing I was grateful for. To go with my March list, I decided to think about what happened in March that made me feel grateful. Since Spring is one of my favorite times of the year, I chose to write about why I love Spring so much. This long-form intentional writing exercise felt amazing because I could just write out what I was feeling about the season and what I experienced. It felt less constrained because I could have bullet lists within the paragraphs, if I wanted to.
I also spent some time drawing in my journal to illustrate one of my favorite things about Spring and I found this to be very soothing and peaceful. (I can’t wait to get into the “Flow” activity in a few weeks!)
During the second week, I found myself very tired after work and chose to nap most days so that I could have some meaningful family time over dinner and into the early evening. So, I saved my photography experiment for the weekend.
For me, the entire act of finding the right subject, setting up the shot, photographing, editing and adding an affirmation feels amazing and creative. Since that’s generally a lot of work, I don’t see myself doing this activity during the week very often. Instead, I had this fun idea of making “Grateful for…” cards during the weekend and then printing them out as inserts for my planner! Since I don’t have many blooming flowers in the garden yet, I used photos I had taken a few summers back.
Maybe this has sparked some ideas or you’d like to share how you express your gratitude? Perhaps you get creative with paint or you record vlogs! I’d love to hear from you in the comments or you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Get all four original Gratitude Cards to add to your planner or bullet journal!
Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription and download your free gratitude cards!