Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making a Gratitude List

Here in the United States, tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday. A quiet day to spend with friends and family. 

I am grateful everyday and don't really need a special holiday to remind me of the many treasures in my life. But I began a tradition long ago that I still practice. For years, I have begun Thanksgiving morning by getting up early, sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, and making an ABC gratitude list in my journal. I note the A-B-Cs down the side of the page and then quickly fill in with something that I am grateful for.

Apples, Baseball, Coffee, Dandelions

For instance, from last year's list, November 21, 2012:

Elvis, Friends, Goats

And, an oldie from almost 25 years ago, November 23, 1989:

Hope, Intuition, Joy, Kindness

If you love lists like I do, you've got to love making a gratitude list. I think the ABC list is carefree and casual and spontaneous. I simply write whatever pops into my mind and sometimes surprise myself.

Lemonade, Magic, Nightingales, Ohio River, Paris

You could also use the ABCs to guide your list to include only foods or animals or people. Or you could go for a list of totally non-material things.  One year I listed authors:

Quiller-Couch, Rhinehart, Simenon, Thirkell

Even a non-gratitude list will give you gratitude if you can just flip the list around.

For example, I may not be grateful for floods, plagues or pestilence, but I am grateful that I am not experiencing any of those right now. I may not be grateful for all the torn-up streets that plague the city right now – construction, utility company updates, repaving, bridges – but just think how grateful we will all be when eventually the streets are clear and smooth.

Umbrellas, Vegetables, Writing

It seems to me that having a grateful heart wards off resentment, envy, self-pity, and despair. Gratitude is the cornerstone of a spiritual life. And the only way I know to foster gratitude is to say “thank you” often.

Say '”thank you” out loud. Whisper it before falling asleep. Say it to your family and friends. Write it on your check to the electric company. Wave it to the stranger who lets you out in traffic. Write thank you every morning in your journal.

Buy a small notebook to keep by your bedside and every evening record those people, places, events, and things that you are grateful for. 

Take a few moments in the morning and start your day with gratitude. 

eXcellence, Yellow, Zinnias.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!


  1. What a good list! I especially like the lemonade-through-Paris.

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving.

    1. Thanks, Kat. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

  2. I LOVE this idea! I'm trying it tomorrow. I've been thinking about gratitude a lot lately because of the season. I also just read about an exercise where every night you write down three things that went well for you during the day, and how that helps you feel happier in general. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm going to. I have a tendency to get dragged down easily, and I want to focus more on the positive in my life.

    1. Kathy, it's a great way to start the holiday season. I can't believe I have been doing this faithfully for 25 years! I used to try and make a nighttime list but never did really form the habit. So, I just try and say 'thank you' as often as possible - at unexpected times and in unexpected places!

      Have a happy Thanksgiving, Kathy. I am always grateful for your comments.

  3. I am curious because I grew up in Cincinnati. Why are you grateful for the Ohio River? (Paris and Kindness do not need any explanation.)

    1. Well, I grew up and still live a bit down river in Louisville. I do think living in a city with a river running through it makes life so lively. I am just minutes from our waterfront and can see the historic Ohio when I take my daily walk. The river offers a constantly changing vista and one that I am always grateful for.