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catching the gratitude and the everyday 

capturing gratitude (4)

Today, I want to share one way that I'm using the lens of gratitude to catch a few of the everyday stories around here.

Back in April, I watched a live-streamed talk that Brene Brown was giving at Omega. In the talk, she mentioned that one common theme among people living wholeheartedly is a practice of gratitude. This might mean that they literally keep one of those gratitude journals that Oprah helped make popular in the 90s, but it could also mean that they are able to access gratitude as they move through the day-to-day stuff.

[I want to be one of those people. Even though sometimes the word gratitude bugs me. But then I remember how I've learned that gratitude isn't an invitation to say everything in your life is fine but it is an access point to joy.]

I've kept gratitude journals a few times in my life. Inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach, the first Christmas after college I made gratitude journals for all the women in my life - from my close friends to my grandmother. In the first few pages of the journal I explained how to keep the journal (write down five things you are grateful for each day) and then I wrote a few pages of the reasons why I am grateful for that person. I remember being so happy to give them to my loved ones that I practically vibrated. They were my first truly handmade gifts since ornaments I made when I was 10.

When my grandma died, that journal came back my way. I'd like to say that she had filled the pages with her stories and everyday gratitude, but the other pages were still blank. This did not surprise me. I think this can be a difficult practice to begin and then maintain, even though the evidence is there that it can literally change your life.

Over here, when I am neck-deep in the toddler stuff and the life stuff, it can be a bit challenging to remember that sometimes moments are full of ease...that sometimes the day goes just the way I hoped...that often there is more joy than intensity. 

My mom keeps saying, "When you have a good time at a restaurant with Ellie, write it down. When she says, "Juice," write it down. When she tells you she wants to take a nap, write it down."

And when she's said this, I often think, "I'll get right on that. Right after I tackle all the other stuff that is on my list like planning next year's retreats, writing tomorrow's blog post, and trying to remember to take the clothes out of the washer before 24 hours passes and I have to rewash them."

Here's the reality though: My mom is actually inviting me to do what I already do, notice the simple moments and the beauty found within them, but to come at it with more awareness to how much Ellie is growing each day so that when the day has more frustration than ease, I can still see the bigger picture. (When you have a toddler, your world can get really really small.)

When I was having one of my "okay, maybe I could start writing this down in more of a mindful way" moments, I came across the new "documenting" section at Paper Coterie and found this "Daily" journal. 

capturing gratitude (1)

At first I thought I might be making just be another excuse to get another journal (ahem), but the simple layout intrigued me as did the ability to personalize it. I added my own photos (there are a few different photo spreads inside like the one at the top of this post) and I was able to remove the quote in the inside cover and add my own words. 

capturing gratitude (3)

And I've been using it for a few weeks now. I keep it out in the living room so I can grab it at the end of the day when Jon is reading to Ellie, and I just make a simple list of what today looked like. Everything from the bliss of taking a nap when she does to the joy of a meal with all of us together at the table to honest statements like, "Today was kind of crap as the electricians left a huge mess in the backyard, but I am one day closer to having my new studio." 

What I have noticed so far is that when I see the photos on the front and inside of this simple book and I turn to the page to make my list, my mind clears just a bit. I begin to breathe from my heart, and I come back to myself. Plus, the notes are a great place to find stories to add to Project Life.

Edited to add: And this is what I know: If you peek in over here at my site you know that I notice and document the everyday through my photos and words, whether on my blog, at Flickr and Instagram, and through other projects I do. It is kind of my thing (as my new website tagline suggests). But there is something about documenting in a simple list that is helping me, the mama of a two year old, drill down to the even simpler moments to celebrate: when she uses words, when Jon and I connect through just sharing a bowl of popcorn, when Millie rolls her eyes at Ellie...the even simpler moments that push me to know we are doing okay over here. Sometimes you just need a simple list.

Do you keep a gratitude journal or daily list of sorts? How? What do you use? I'd love to know.


This weekend, Paper Coterie is having a pretty incredible "Christmas in July" sale on gift cards; the intention being that you buy gift cards now knowing you will be purchasing holiday gifts (like cards or other fun things) in a few months. You can use them for anything on their site. I'm thinking about creating a few new gratitude journals and sending them out into the world to my kindreds this holiday season. 

Note: Because I'm using several of their products almost everyday, I decided to become an affiliate for Paper Coterie, which means the links to their site are affiliate links. 

Reader Comments (15)

I think taking photos is another way of recording these things and you are already doing that. Sometimes photos are far better than words. There is also the blogging, which for me is so much more enjoyable than keeping a written journal. I've documented stuff in my life over the last 8 years this way. It's deeply satisfying to be able to go back in my archives and see (and read!) what I've accomplished in that time. You forget that you are celebrating the everyday here too Liz. :)

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLelainia Lloyd

Great post, Liz. I agree with you on documenting gratitude. When we look for it, we bring it to the forefront of our lives and it's what we focus on. I know that the times in my life that I've kept gratitude journals and snapped photos of simple pleasures, life has just been better. Less drama. Another great place to document those photos in on the One Thousand Gifts iphone app. It's so cool! :-)

I love your site, too. . . could spend hours here.


July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShari

love it!
I was keeping a gratitude journal in the form of a planner I had, but for some reason had trouble keeping up with it. Now I am using an app called thankfulfor and I do that before I get out of bed, even half asleep I can find things to be grateful for!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Which of their journal are you using, Liv ?
I agree and it was hard for me at the beginning of my Gratitude Journey: being grateful does not mean I say everything is amazing. Because it is not, sometimes faaaar from it. But it is looking for these little gems that brightened the day, even the small little things. And embracing them, thanking for them. This is how I practice Gratitude (and with a family dinner ritual we have).
Take care

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNolwenn

I love you BUT ... I think I need to call my sponsor first before reading any of your posts with the word "journal" in it! Ahem. Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a journal addict. :)

Okay, so I love this idea ... i want to know though, if you feel like bits of yourself are scattered across many journals/projects and if you are okay with this? Or do you seek to unify? I consider my photo-a-day project a gratitude journal of sorts - what do I want to remember (read: celebrate) about this day? I plan on collecting all of the images in one book at the end of the year. I also have one of those 5 years journals (i know, i know ... it was a gift) which really only allows a couple of lines about the day, so I like your idea of a list. I also started (head hanging low here ...) an art journal for my girl which so far has included spreads on her loosing her first tooth, us going to a Dan Zanes concert, lists of her crazy words/phrases, and the periodic letters from me to her ("what I want you to know") It kinda morphed into a "make me one of those mommy" books were if I did a painting of a dog, she wanted the same dog in her journal.

I really love the idea of combining photographs with just a few words and am thinking that my 365 project will morph into that. I plan on getting a nice big journal. But yeah, sometimes I feel like I am scattered across many journals (my 5 year, my writing journal, my sketchbooks, now a photo journal ... oh, and add a Book of Days project which is really a book of each week). As you can see, I need help! Or maybe just a big, lovely, hand painted bookcase to hold all these journals?! In gratitude for all the journals you inspire me to fill! xo

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLis

I just discovered your blog and am happy to be a new follower. I need to start up a gratitude journal again - I had one when my daughter was younger. One thing I did that I'm so happy about back then was to record all the funny things my daughter said in the journal. Out of the mouths of babes! I did this over a period of about five years (age 3-8). Being able to go back and look at the quotes brings us all so much laughter...last year, for my daughter's 20th birthday, I made a scrapbook with each page having one of her funny childhood quotes and a photo to match from that time period. It was a huge hit and she treasures it. Have a wonderful weekend!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherri B.

I love your idea of using photos as a gratitude journal! I've used plain ole' notebooks and an app. Neither stuck. I read over and over again that gratitude is the doorway to being truly happy. This post comes at a wonderful time (for me), and I am grateful for your writing. Thank you!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiberty

Ooh looks so fun! One of my list items for this year ahead is to practice gratitude for at least 21 days. This would make a fun project.

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCelina

I Love this post!
I also tend toward photos, so I love your idea about using photos too! I have a little composition notebook that I got from Target for $3.99...I use it as a journal. I don't write in it every day, but pretty close to that. Most days I list 3 or 4 things that I am grateful for.....Tonight, I also wrote a little about what I did today and then about what my husband and I had for dinner. Some days it serves as a place for me to write goals...other days to vent about my frustrations. I have written letters that I will never send, but that needed to get "out"....I make "Top 5" or "Top 10" lists about things I love/hate/want to do/have done, etc. I could go on....because, though it isn't a neat, specific journal...it is the first time I have consistently written and it seems to be working!! I finished the 1st notebook in April (I started it in April of last year) and went out and bought two more of the same notebooks...because I have plans of filling them this year!!

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet K

Dear Liz,
first and foremost thank you! For your words of wisdom and all the inspiration you give us! It was time I expressed my gratitude to you :)
Yes I keep a gratitude journal, where I write each and every day a few of my many blessings. It has become a daily practice since 2009, when I started my spiritual journey. I have recently made a Biz Gratitude Book too, where I write/keep all that's business related (you can see it on my blog here: http://the-white-bench.blogspot.it/2012/07/im-back-and-my-biz-gratitude-book.html). I strongly believe in the transformative power of gratitude, it's a real door to joy!
This post of yours is very inpiring. What a beautiful idea! Thank you. I want to give it a go.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

I meant to say, I write in my gratitude journal every night before going to bed! :)

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

I've been so rubbish at keeping my gratitude journal recently. Must get back to it because I feel better when I do.

July 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

i too LOVE journals and have many. i keep a diary of the day's events, which includes what i'm grateful for. i keep separate journals for books i read, blogs i read. i start a new journal when events in my life call for it. thank you for sharing the journal at paper coterie!

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralane

I love journals. recently, i picked up a really cheap {but pretty} notepad at staples titles, good things. i've noticed that i have been a little blah in my practices. i am hoping remember the good will reorient me.

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkeishua

I just started using a Gratitude app that a friend recommended. It is lovely! I've tried a lot of things, from an actual gratitude journal to holding onto a favorite stone before falling asleep while silently listing all the things I was grateful for that day. (The former didn't work because I kept falling behind and then it felt more like a chore because I felt like I had to catch up before I could write down that day's gratitudes. The latter worked except I'd often fall asleep in the middle and then wake up on a rock, possibly feeling like the princess and the pea.) The app works nicely because I always have my phone and I love that I can attach a photo.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

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