How to Record & Understand a Year of Gratitude

I kept talking about practicing gratitude-being grateful. Seeing the silver lining. Slowing down. Counting my blessings. Cherishing the moment. Being content with what I have. Embracing what shows up in my life.

Then, I did.

In 2018 I committed to recording one thing I was grateful for each of the 365 days. Some days I struggled with limiting my recording to only one. Other days, I stretched to recall one. Regardless, each day received a gratitude note.

A month of gratitude slips.

It became routine: a habit. Then, a life-changer.

I dug out a book given to me a decade ago. I read and re-read it. It’s highlighted and dogeared. It’s a recipe for practicing gratitude.

Definition

Gratitude here is described as “the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment. It is stunningly simple. It helps us to return to our natural state of joyfulness where we notice what’s right instead of what’s wrong.”

If you’re reaching for ways to develop & keep an attitude of gratitude, read

Recommended Reading

Read on to find out how you can get a copy.

DATA COLLECTION

365 GOLDEN SLIPS

I cut 365 slips of golden paper and placed them into zip-lock bags by month. These sat in a basket next to my desk as a constant reminder not only to complete each slip daily but also to more fully recognize and appreciate events, behaviors, people, interactions, etc.

I became committed to appreciating this quote from the book: “Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you suddenly can see what’s there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.”

What to Record

I didn’t limit myself to what could be recorded. The only rules were that just one item could be noted daily and that it could not be a recording of activity or an event and read like a journal. It had to be something unique about the day (or my approach or reaction to the day) that stood out and that I really appreciated and was grateful for.

Each day I made a recording, noted the date, folded the slip and put it in the container next to my desk.

Around March I began to realize how easy it is to forget things that happen on a daily basis that bring vast amounts of joy and enrichment to my life. Larger life events can often overshadow. For instance, 2018 brought some pretty seismic changes to our family life:

  • My husband, Ken, voluntarily switched careers.
  • Our son, Alex, married.
  • I doubled my client workload.
  • Illness and death of extended family and close friends.

Rather than focus on these major happenings, I recorded notes like, “admiration of Ken’s brain and intellect” and “cooling oceanside breeze on Alex’s wedding day.”

MONTH END REVIEW & RECALL

At the beginning of each month Ken and I would sit down and read aloud each slip from the prior month. We took turns randomly selecting slips until all were read and recalled. Some slips required explanation. Many brought delight as we remembered what was noted on the golden slip.[BONUS: Having someone to read and share a month’s worth of slips together is a real treat. But don’t let this stop you from recording on your own gratitude slips daily.]

DATA ANALYSIS

I used a research method-content analysis- to code all 365 golden gratitude slips. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/content%20analysis.

It is both qualitative (subjective, based on observation) and quantitative (objective, numbers).

Without getting too technical, I

  • Read each slip
  • Placed similar slips into the same group
  • Named each group like Marriage, Friendship, Immediate Family, Wellness, Etc.
  • Counted the number of slips in each group
  • Created sub-categories for large groups
  • Placed each category into 1 of 3 larger categories
  • Charted the slips by category

FINDINGS

Marriage

The largest number of gratitude slips (49) related to our 26 year marriage or my husband’s presence in my life. A sample includes, “pride in Ken’s hard work ethic and subsequent results,” “strength, faith and integrity through adversity and change,” and “honoring traditions like Ken’s standing the first Saturday of each May as “My Old Kentucky Home” is sung at the Derby.” [He’s a Kentucky native.]

Friends

We’ve lived in eight states. Making, appreciating and retaining friends across the globe are highly valued (30). “Social skills to make friends and develop life-long friendships.” “Friendships from work settings despite employer changes.” “Invitations to outings with new friends.”

Wedding Day Breakfast, Charleston, SC, July 3, 2018

Mother/Son

Alex, 24, is our only child. Time spent with him was mentioned 24 times. It is the greatest gift he gives me. On Mother’s Day I noted, “grateful for the title of mother.” “Honest/frank conversations,” and “Drive and dedication at his job” were also noted.

Immediate Family

Our immediate family grew to four in 2018 with Alex’s marriage. Again, time spent together was mentioned most. I’m was grateful for their wedding day and marriage. We’re all grateful for their home offer being accepted and the ease of their move-in.

Extended Family

Siblings, nieces, cousins, parents and in-laws were mentioned 18 times. Highlights: “Inclusiveness and traditions of Loon Lake, MN cousins, like their pre-meal prayer, ‘We love our bread. We love our butter. But most of all we love each other.’ “Adult women who become friends” and “uninterrupted travel time with brother from NE to MN.”

Other

Forty-four (44) golden slips simply could not be forced into another category and got placed in “OTHER.” Samples include, “safety of winter roadways, “service experts like window washers, snow removers, HVAC technicians, etc.”, “Nebraska volleyball players’ grit coming back to win from two sets down,” and “beauty and majesty of fireworks displays.”

Wellness

Access to medical care with kind, caring professionals was frequently mentioned (35). I have a progressive scoliosis. Access to warm water and massage therapy were often cited. “Motivation and commitment to pool exercise for maintenance of health and mobility,” “ability to rest and recover,” and “understanding need for self-care.”

Travel

I am curious and have gypsy-like traits. Thus, I thrive on travel (13) and immersing myself in new surroundings and cultures. I am most grateful for the means to travel.

Nature

Many of my/our travels include exploration of nature and the outdoors (11). Sample notations included: “Sunrises.” “Sitting on dock listening to sounds of loons on lake” and “full moon lighting our travel on I-80.”

Loon Lake, Minnesota

Personal Traits

Personal skills or traits appeared on 29 golden slips. These skills included traits like tolerance, compassion, sense of humor, emotional strength, ability to let go, forgiveness, life long learner, celebratory, etc.

Business Skill

Business aptitude or skills were noted 19 times. Problem-solving, analytical, group facilitation and connection, persistence, creative and artistic, communication (courageous, multi-generational, etc.) and organizational and planning are samples of the greater list.

Alone Time

Alone time only appeared four times during the year. History explains that. I hail from a family of 11. I enjoy being surrounded by people and activity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • There is always something to be grateful for. Recognizing this and pausing to understand gratitude were teachable moments.
  • I was grateful prior to this 365 day exercise. Committing gratitude to paper daily did, however, amplify the many blessings in my life.
  • My gratitude notes mirror my personal priorities. Almost half of the notes (46%) landed in “Marriage + Family.” Over a third (36%) fell in “External” and Eighteen percent (18%) were personal.
  • I was surprised by the number of personal and business traits (combined 48) mentioned on the gratitude slips. Clearly, I understand that my approach to both situations and people stems from the skills I possess and use. Experience (age) does lead to wisdom and insight.
  • Traveling fills my soul whether domestic or off-shore. Yet, it only had 13 mentions during the year. Perhaps, I’ve taken this blessing a bit for granted.
  • I have solidified my belief that most people are good and have good intentions. Forgiveness seems to come easier.
  • An attitude of gratitude is a daily work in progress. Admittedly, while raising a family, working and maintaining a life, it’s not easy to focus on self-improvement.
  • If I had a do-over, I’d have done this exercise earlier in my life. It’s never too late to start.

FUTURE

  • Keep understanding that to experience gratitude, I have to first be aware I’ve been given something (not necessarily a material thing).
  • Start each day being abundantly joyful.
  • Consciously count my blessings on a daily basis.
  • Realize there are trying times and discover the gift in those moments.
  • Be present and aware, especially during mundane, ordinary tasks.
  • Focus on needs not wants.
  • Notice and appreciate each person’s talents.
  • Live simply and minimally.
  • Keep expectations in check.
  • Give thanks every day, including at meal time.
  • Re-read “Attitudes of Gratitude” as needed to get re-focused.

Sandra from Sioux Falls, SD won the book! Congrats!

If you’d like a free copy of “Attitudes of Gratitude,” complete the form below and list the #1 thing you are most grateful for at the moment. List 1 item only.

CLOSED: A random winner will be chosen by May 1, 2019.

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
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Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
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