What do you think about as you fall asleep?
For most of us, the thoughts galloping across our mental landscape are nothing remarkable. We plan tomorrow’s schedule, rehash what didn’t get done today, or dream up weekend activities. What we don’t do is dwell on the day’s brightest moments. Yet research shows that those who count their blessings daily are happier than those who, say, count sheep.
According to a recent study, gratitude “makes you happier and healthier.” As this article put it, “If you can find any authentic reason to give thanks, and put your attention there, then statistics say you’re going to be better off.”
It is both old news and a current trend to discuss gratitude. But the importance of cultivating a thankful character—one that notices small gifts and receives them gladly—is as timely as ever. The current season, especially, has reminded me of this truth. With several celebratory events falling close together, I’ve found myself writing an unusual amount of thank-you notes. In a season of giving thanks, the act of handwriting a card for each gift is changing me.
The point is that saying thank you actually makes us grateful. Writing down gifts means we notice them, re-live them, and absorb them. Darling readers, I challenge you to try it this week. Every day, write down three things that gave you life: the first summer barbeque, a phone call from an out-of-state friend, the new book you can’t put down. The practice might feel rote at first, especially if you’re not one to journal. But the habit of giving name to good things will begin to take root.
Cultivating gratitude doesn’t mean faking a cheery disposition or ignoring the darker shades of life. Rather, it’s about choosing to notice moments that genuinely arrest us with their goodness. Notice what restores you, even in the smallest way, each day. You might be surprised to bump into authentic gratitude in the end.
Our days are breaking open with goodness, splitting little seams and cracks where light leaks out. You can give these moments a glance and move on, or you can dwell on them, collect them, savor them and say thank you. It is in choosing to recognize the light that we are changed. Beyond feeling thankful, our whole person becomes oriented toward gratitude.
The best news is that this reorientation is generative. As our insides shift, we become focused outward and have more to give to those around us. Awareness doesn’t come naturally, but it can be born from habit. And as we change our habits, the simple practice of noticing changes us.
 Robbins, Ocean. “The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Healthier.” Huffington Post. 4 November 2011.
Image via Forever Wondering