Jahnavi Shah

PhD Student, Planetary Science

A Year of Gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Happy April flurries!

In April 2019, I started a gratitude book (about which you can read in my earlier blog post here) and I want to share my experience after a year. A quick summary of the main reasons why I started this little personal project: 1) pandemic panic, 2) improve mindfulness, and 3) benefits linked to practicing gratitude (such as lowering stress and strengthening immune system). The main goal was to document a few things I was grateful for each day.

The log started off very well; I had regular entries – usually a couple times a day. The positivity that came from it was refreshing and consoling during a time of a global pandemic filled with risks, stress, and uncertainty. I kept a relatively rigorous log for the first couple months. A few months in the entries became less frequent, a few times week instead of a few times a day, but I was still keeping up by trying to remember something from each day of the week. I guess the initial excitement is what drove the intense journaling in the first month or two.

About 6 months later, the frequency lowered to few times a month, but I have a couple reasons that might explain why this happened. The first reason is that I started going to campus from time to time during the fall semester which meant I didn’t have access to the book at all times. Since, it’s a medium-sized book (and not something that can be slipped into a pocket), it’s not very portable. Because I was going to campus often enough from October to December and not logging entries as much, I fell out of practice, sadly. I had been so consistent up to that point that it had become almost a routine/habit, but it was very easy to break the cycle with a month of few to no entries. I guess a work-around this, if I should want to continue keeping a physical log, would be to have a pocket-sized journal which I can keep on me and make entries wherever I happen to be. I had noticed a sort of slack in my journaling at that time and I didn’t really know how to get back into the routine, so I tried something a new form of gratitude log – gratitude letters. I wrote and sent gratitude letters to some friends and family. Looking back at the some of entries in the log, I noticed I had a lot of people-related notes of gratitude but had rarely admitted it to those people. So I wanted to level-up a bit and express the gratitude to these people. I found it to be a reflective exercise and I felt it was a nice compensation for the missed months of gratitude logging. Not that there were consequences associated with not journaling, but I didn’t want to feel like I had given up on this project.

But now going back to other other reason why I think I lost practice of journaling, which I’m only just realizing upon reflection. Keeping a physical log was very helpful in the early stages because it helped me take notes of those moments of gratitude during my day knowing that I had to write it down at the end of the day. As time went on though, I guess I formed a habit of taking mental notes without really noticing it. So what started of as a physical log had turned into more a mental log of gratitude. Earlier on, I would take quick mental notes of the moment but guess was more excited about being able to write it down later. Now, I find myself absorbing the moment a bit more and allowing the gratitude of the moment to sink in, without hurrying to write it down. The initial motivation of this project was to practice a mindfulness, and this is a form of that. I suppose I needed the physical documentation routine to help develop a habit and learn how to do it more naturally/mentally. That being said, I think I’d still like to try keeping a physical log. It’s nice to able to look back at it sometimes. It’s especially comforting in times when I’m feeling down, and I’ve definitely done that with my current log. Speaking of which, looking back through the log from the past year, I found some repeated notes/themes. The most repeated entries were related to appreciating any form of human contact (virtual, physically distanced, and in-person), moments spent in nature, and enjoying new food experiments/projects. This pattern seems fitting for a year spent mostly in quarantine.

A thought on a different way to keep a gratitude log:
A few years back, I started keeping a quote wall in my room with the intention to add general quotes (mainly related to motivation and inspiration). Later, it turned into adding notes about funny moments and exchanges with people. I started this when I was working as a residence advisor in undergrad and I wanted something interactive the students on my floor could do when they visited my room (or rather encourage them to visit me so I could check in on them). I think it was a pretty successful exercise. But I liked it a lot for myself too so I decided to continue that in my place when I moved to London. Very similar to how I like enjoy looking back at the entries in the gratitude log, it’s fun to look at these “quotes”, many of which are related to shared moments with friends and family. I could perhaps start adding notes of gratitude to this wall because it’s a little bit more accessible to me compared to a journal. I might experiment with this idea when I start a new quote wall at my new place. Might post an update if it works out!

Till next time, stay warm ☀️

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