In Flunking Sainthood, my practice of gratitude was supposed to be the bunny slope of my year’s experiments. Lured by research data that suggested that grateful people live longer, enjoy better sleep and better sex, and evince more optimism about the future, I spent a month trying to cultivate gratitude by writing down the things I was thankful for.
I was able to keep the letter of the law with that practice –- I did write regularly in my journal — but I often felt like a failure anyway, because my gratitude journal showed to me so clearly that the things I was generally grateful for were shallow and fleeting. I felt more grateful about being upgraded to first class on an airplane, for example, than for the health I routinely enjoy. It turns out that it’s relatively easy to express thanks, but a lot harder to really mean it day in and day out, from the bottom of your heart. We can take it for granted that we will always take things for granted.
So I get a do-over! Gratitude is a lifelong spiritual practice, and it’s one I hope to sustain for a lifetime. But it starts with three concrete things in August:
1. Every day, I’ll write down five things I am grateful for. You can do this privately in a Gratitude Journal or publicly on the Flunking Sainthood Gratitude Challenge Facebook page. (I just started the page on Monday and we already have over 350 folks signed up, so that’s something I am grateful for today.)
2. Every day, I will write a note of thanks to one person whose acts of love and kindness have blessed my life. (Yeah, a text message counts. Let’s not get all Martha Stewarty here.)
3. I’ll review my gratitude journal each day to remind myself of all the great things happening in my life.
She invites the world to join her by “liking” the Facebook page or signing up for daily emails from Paraclete Press, “which offer inspirational boosts and thoughts on gratitude to help you on the path.”