Friday, July 21, 2017

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

Image result for the gratitude diaries

I like to think of myself as a grateful person. I do try to acknowledge during the day happenings that I am thankful for - from an unusual sighting of a pair of brilliant goldfinches in my garden the other morning to the bigger things such as health, home, friends, and family that sometimes can be taken for granted.

So, I was interested in attending an event Thursday evening with Janice Kaplan author of The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life. She was here at the behest of the same organization that brought Peter Walsh, declutterer extraordinaire, to Louisville a few months ago. (I wrote about that lively presentation here.)

There was a huge crowd - maybe 500 or more - in attendance. I guess lots of folks wanted a gratitude fix. Ms. Kaplan is a journalist, former editor of Parade magazine, a television producer, and author. She was an entertaining presenter but as you can see from the photo below it was difficult to catch her not moving!

As she tells it, she decided one New Year's Eve (the book was published in 2015) that she would spend the upcoming year making it a point to be grateful for her abundant life and look on the bright side of whatever happened. She knew that the trick to accomplishing this would be less about the events and more about her attitude toward those events.

Let me be clear. I have not read this book. But I do love a story like this where the author tries out something on herself and shares what she learned over the course of the experiment. Ms. Kaplan wasn't selling and autographing books after the presentation, but I do have it on reserve at the library. (I think I am 10th in line!)

But it wasn't about her spending the year saying thank you to everyone. She questioned physicians and psychologists, CEOs and celebrities, and combined their take on gratitude along with what she was learning from her own observations.

She claims we are wired to look at the negative - back in the day it probably saved our ancestors' lives to identify the one poisonous berry among the ones that wouldn't kill them. But, it is in our power to make gratitude a part of our life. To decide on our attitude and take the positive high road.

I am a little confused, though, as I think being grateful and having a positive outlook on life are two different things, although certainly intertwined.

She closed with a quote from Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast:

It is not happiness that makes us grateful, 
but gratefulness that makes us happy.

One of Ms. Kaplan's suggestions is to keep a gratitude journal and write down one, two, five things that you are grateful for each day. Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? A couple of months ago I bought the one pictured below at a thrift shop. It sits empty still. But it is very attractive.

How do you practice gratitude? Do you think being grateful and having a positive outlook are the same thing? Chime in.


  1. I agree with you that having a positive attitude and being grateful are two different things. I am grateful for many things in my life, but, unfortunately, I subscribe to the philosophy that if I'm happy, some gods with look on me with malice in their hearts and make sure my happiness doesn't last long! I'm always planning for the worst to happen. It can be exhausting!

    1. Joan, we must be twins separated at birth. I too fear that all I am grateful for will be whisked away in the blink of an eye. And you are is exhausting. But, today all is well so I will be thankful for that. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this!

  2. Apparently, you, Joan and I were all separated at birth, because I feel the same way: don't be too happy, or something will happen to make you unhappy.

    That said, I do think I am an optimist and try to find the positive in what appears to be negative. And I am even grateful for the suffering (granted, it hasn't been extreme) in my life because it has helped me be more empathetic and I value that. I've never been successful in maintaining a gratitude journal longer than a few days, though. Which is kind of sad, as I have much to be grateful for.

    Interestingly enough, this week I got a "food for thought" email that asked the question, what if everything you weren't grateful for today disappeared tomorrow? That would be an eye-opener, and I'm still thinking about it!

    I've had this book on my TBR list for a while--it sounds like an interesting one. I like those "here's the experiment I tried on myself" books, too!

    1. Three sisters! I like it.

      That is a thought-provoking question, Kathy. I better make sure my gratitude list is up to date...just in case.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

      BTW, the next speaker in this series will be Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project. I already have my (free) ticket! She will be here in October. I am really looking forward to seeing her. Although I don't check her blog as often as I used to, I have read all her books, at least the ones on happiness and habits.

    2. Oh, lucky you! I love her books on happiness and habits, though like you I haven't been reading her blog as often as I used to. Or anybody's really, I've just been too busy. That's why my comments on your posts come in weeks after you write...

    3. I had to buy a new laptop a couple of months ago and lost all my bookmarked sites. I still have you though. And a few others. I spend so much time staring at a screen for my writing that I grow weary when it is time for fun staring...

    4. P.S. I appreciate and enjoy your comments no matter when they come!