A Week of Gratitude

A Week of Gratitude“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” -Hausa Proverb

We all know that stress is bad and positive thinking is good.  Too much stress can cause an alarming amount of psychological and health issues, including anxiety, high blood pressure, and IBS, just to name a few. However, just the simple act of thinking more positively can drastically reduce the chance of suffering from those problems. But it’s not always that easy to “just be happy.”

Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, but these past few weeks have been tougher than usual to the point that I made myself sick. I really had to be conscious about what I ate, how much I rested, and what I did in order to try to relax my body as much as possible. During this time, I decided it was time to begin researching alternate ways of thinking, living, and coping in order to get a handle on my anxiety.

One thing that I found all over the internet was something called a gratitude journal. I posted about this on my Instagram a few days ago. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this yet, but there’s a ton of research out there right now about gratitude and the immense benefits that it can have on our lives.

The Theory Behind It

Jason Marsh of the Greater Good Magazine says, “keeping a gratitude journal — or perhaps the entire experience of gratitude — is really about forcing ourselves to pay attention to the good things in life we’d otherwise take for granted. It’s easy to get numb to the regular sources of goodness in our lives.”

According to an article in Forbes, expressing gratitude offers several scientific benefits, including enhanced empathy, improved sleep quality, increased mental strength, and improved physical and psychological health. They say that the physical act of writing down what you’re grateful for is more effective than just thinking it (mindful.org). I am a huge fan of journaling in general, so I had to try this.

The Process

There are some studies that claim that journaling every day is beneficial, while others suggest that it’s better to write two to three times a week. Some people say that they write fully fleshed out paragraphs about one or two things that they’re grateful for. Other people say that they prefer to write up to ten, one-word items that illicit happy, grateful thoughts.

Being the over-thinker that I am, I deliberated for a while until I decided that the best way for me was to list five, somewhat detailed items every \night before I go to bed. This way, I have all of the experiences of the day to reflect upon, and I can maximize the results. I don’t always have the time to sit down and write in my journal every single night, so, at times like that, I will list my five items in my phone and then transcribe them to my journal later.

My Thoughts

I’ve been journaling for eight days straight now and while I’m not a completely different person, I can already feel a difference in how I have begun to think. Some days, I find myself noticing positive things that happen throughout the day, and I make a mental note to write them down later. And then other days, it’s hard to even think of one thing that I’m grateful for, but those are the days in which I’m forced to reflect on my day even more, which increases mindfulness. That’s really the whole goal, right?

I think that expressing gratitude through journaling is such a good thing to get in the habit of doing, and I have even encouraged my husband and mom to try it, too! I challenge you to try this (for a month or even a week) and see how it affects your life.

More Info

Greater Good Magazine

Had you heard of gratitude journals before? Do you think it’s something you’d be interested in giving a try? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


Title: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Genre: Fiction, Short Stories
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

Eight stories—longer and more emotionally complex than any Lahiri has yet written—that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.

From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories—longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written—that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.

In the stunning title story, Ruma, a young mother in a new city, is visited by her father, who carefully tends the earth of her garden, where he and his grandson form a special bond. But he’s harboring a secret from his daughter, a love affair he’s keeping all to himself. In “A Choice of Accommodations,” a husband’s attempt to turn an old friend’s wedding into a romantic getaway weekend with his wife takes a dark, revealing turn as the party lasts deep into the night. In “Only Goodness,” a sister eager to give her younger brother the perfect childhood she never had is overwhelmed by guilt, anguish, and anger when his alcoholism threatens her family. And in “Hema and Kaushik,” a trio of linked stories—a luminous, intensely compelling elegy of life, death, love, and fate—we follow the lives of a girl and boy who, one winter, share a house in Massachusetts. They travel from innocence to experience on separate, sometimes painful paths, until destiny brings them together again years later in Rome.

Unaccustomed Earth is rich with Jhumpa Lahiri’s signature gifts: exquisite prose, emotional wisdom, and subtle renderings of the most intricate workings of the heart and mind. It is a masterful, dazzling work of a writer at the peak of her powers.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading a book composed of short stories, but I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked the commonalities that each story had (people with Bengali origins and the overarching theme of adjustment and change). This really tied all of the stories together, while still allowing them to remain different.

This was our August pick in my book club and during our monthly meeting, we mainly discussed the cultural aspect of the stories. Lahiri herself is an Indian who lives in the United States, so a lot of the situations and emotions in the book are from personal experience, which added a lot of depth to the stories.

I really enjoyed the intricately woven stories that Lahiri told, and I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is considering a book of short stories for the first time.

I’d like to know: do you like short story compilations? This was my first one, but I really enjoyed it. I’d love to hear some of your recommendations!