Saturday, January 4, 2020

My Gratitude Journal

For the last fifteen years, I have performed a New Year's Tradition that involves reminiscing on the closing year and setting intentions for the coming year. In the final hours of 2018, I established an intention to keep a Gratitude Journal for 2019.

My Gratitude Journal.

At the end of each day in 2019, I reflected on the day's happenings and recorded one thing from that day for which I was grateful. On good days, my gratitude flowed freely. On not-so-good days, I sometimes struggled to find something for which I was grateful. I always found something, though -- even if it was gratitude for waking up to one more morning of life.

There were two reasons I wanted to keep a Gratitude Journal. For one, formally recognizing gratitude would help prevent me from taking things for granted; it would force me to pay attention to the good things in my life. For two, expressing gratitude has a plethora of physical and psychological benefits, not to mention significantly boosting overall happiness.

An unintended benefit of keeping a Gratitude Journal became evident at the end of 2019. At the year's end, I read through my journal and reviewed all that I had been grateful for in the prior year. I became curious as to which aspects of my life appeared most frequently in the entries. I came up with a list of common themes of my gratitude -- serendipity, friendships, biking, etc. As I reread the journal entries, I made note of how many entries corresponded to each category (sometimes entries touched on multiple categories).

A key to living a good life is doing more of what you love. As I read my journal entries and noted the corresponding categories, it dawned on me that this exercise would enable me to hone in on what it is -- exactly -- that I love. By manifesting more of what I love, I can live an even more fulfilling life. Ah ha, and here was another benefit of keeping a Gratitude Journal!

Listed below are the top ten categories that received my gratitude. The categories are listed in order, beginning with the most-mentioned. For each category, I provide commentary, as well as a few note-worthy journal entries from the last year.

1) Connections

As a self-proclaimed loner who very much appreciates her solitude, I had no idea how valuable connections have been in my life. Sometimes these connections have been with friends I've had for year. Other times, these connections have been in-passing with strangers who I will likely never meet again. 
JUNE 29: I am grateful for an unexpected, 45-minute conversation with Billy, my AirBnB host in Spokane. We had a wonderful heartfelt exchange about occurrences in our lives that have shaped who we are today. I am in awe that two strangers can share so deeply. 
JUNE 30: I am grateful for a lovely dinner with Ethel MacDonald. I first reached out to Ethel in March 2017, and I had waited ever since to meet her.
SEPTEMBER 30: I am grateful for taking one more flight and bike ride to Lopez with Larry. How fortunate am I that he came into my life when he did. He taught me the power of asking questions, a skill that came at a timely point in my life -- "The teacher arrives when the student is ready." 

2) Serendipity

This category includes mentions of serendipity and stars aligning. I am reminded of the value of being spontaneous and the magic that occurs when we keep an open mind and an open heart.
JUNE 7: I am grateful for glancing off to the right -- at the perfect moment -- to see the bush plane take off over Fish Lake. The experience was magical. Curiosity led me into the Alaska Bush Floatplane Service to ask, "Is this place real?" ... which led me to meet Annette ... which led me to meet Shawn at North Shore Cyclery. 
SEPTEMBER 6: I am grateful for the moment of serendipity while scouting out the new Crater Lakes & Scenic Bikeways tour. For ease of trip logistics, I had rented a car to get me from place-to-place. I was organizing my belongings in the car when I noticed some papers had slipped between the front seat and center console. The papers included a printout of an article about the Oregon Coast and an itinerary for a cruise to Alaska -- presumably from the last person who rented the vehicle.
The printed Oregon Coast article and the Alaska Itinerary.
As I was flipping through the pages, I was SHOCKED to see my photo! How strange is that? To find a photo of yourself in the car you are renting! Hmm, what is the universe trying to tell me?
A photo of me and El Mecánico in the Oregon Coast article.
The photo was taken by Russ Roca a few years back
to promote Travel Oregon's Scenic Bikeways.
(See We're Film Stars! and The Long Awaited Video is Here!)
OCTOBER 18: I am grateful for running into Ethan Waldman in Burlington, VT. I had reached out to Ethan seven years ago when I saw online that he was building a tiny home. Though I had tried to connect with Ethan in person a few times over the years, that connection never happened. As I was sitting in the van today waiting for my cyclists to arrive at the end of the bike tour, I saw a familiar-looking guy drive down the street. Hey, that's Ethan! We both recognized each other and waved! We got out of our vehicles and chatted for awhile. What a small world! After seven years, we've finally connected! Thank you, serendipity!

3) Doing Something Hard

This category includes mentions of Type II Fun, reaping benefits from hard work, and the wisdom that is gained through experience (often failure). Though, in the moment, hard work and failure can seem immensely difficult and often disappointing, there is almost always an eventual reward and/or silver lining.  
AUGUST 31: I am grateful for figuring out how to relocate the outboard pressure foot into the bore of my rear brake caliper -- all by myself! 
SEPTEMBER 18: I am grateful for standing up to leadership, calling out unfair actions and a lack of transparency. 
SEPTEMBER 27: I am grateful for finally having received full resolution to a wrongdoing that occurred months ago. 

4) Nature

Nature is certainly a reoccurring theme of gratitude. I need to be in nature in order to feel grounded. My Gratitude Journal is sprinkled with moments of appreciation for the sun, the clouds, the trees, lakes and streams, fresh air, and good old Forest Bathing
APRIL 23: I am grateful for the most amazing meditation this morning -- sitting out on the back porch, feeling the sun against my eyelids, being serenaded by a chorus of birds, feeling energy pulse through my body, seeing the chakra colors take turns dancing in my head, radiating an aura of peace, and having a hard time wanting to break out of the meditation.
JUNE 2: I am grateful for sunshine and blue skies on what started off to be yet another rainy and cold day ... and for putting my bare feet on the mossy earth of our backcountry camping spot at Denali.
JULY 16: I am grateful for the wildflowers on The Great Divide. I can't get enough of them! Seeing all the colors puts a big smile on my face.
NOVEMBER 3: I am grateful for sitting in the hot tub tonight, feeling the breeze against my face, and hearing the wind rustle the leaves. 
DECEMBER 18: I am grateful for the sheets of rain that fell from the sky as I sat in the bay window. 

5) Friendships

Though I have many acquaintances, I have a small group of tight-knit friends. These friendships are very meaningful to me.
JANUARY 1: I am grateful for my walk with Kate to Magnuson Park, identifying evergreens along the way, sitting on a bench while sipping tea and listening to Kate share her three favorite writings, and digging up saplings at Thornton Creek for Kate to cultivate.
SEPTEMBER 12: I am grateful for my email exchange with Peter. He makes me smile so much.  

6) Self-Love

In my 40th year, I placed a significant emphasis on establishing self-love habits. Even though my Year of Self-Love has come-and-gone, the habits I created that year continue to guide me in living my life.
JANUARY 11: I am grateful for being me, exactly as I am, with all my strengths and weaknesses.
MAY 5: I am grateful for being able to call on my self-love as a reminder that my own happiness and well-being are most important -- without them, life is hollow.
JULY 7: I am grateful for honoring my self-love. Today I stuck to my zero-tolerance principles, boundaries I established to protect my well-being and health.
JULY 28: I am grateful for realizing that I am whole by myself; I don't need anyone to complete me.   

7) Walking

I love to walk. My most profound thinking often happens when I set one foot in front of the other. I was surprised that there were more mentions of walking than biking in my Gratitude Journal!
JUNE 18: I am grateful for taking my third annual walk past the gate at the end of School House Road, through the cow fields, below the mountain ridge in Wise River. This was my first time walking this path alone, and I enjoyed the solitude to reflect on my self-love transformation.
JUNE 20: I am grateful for taking a lovely stroll by myself through Philipsburg, enabling me to recharge my "me batteries."
AUGUST 4: I am grateful for the lovely 5-mile early morning walk along the windy, dusty roads of Orcas. My walk enabled me to realize that this housesitting/caretaking opportunity -- which seemed so wonderful on the surface -- is not for me. 

8) Biking

It comes as no surprise that I am grateful for biking. Exploring on two wheels is a huge part of my life.
APRIL 3: I am grateful for riding my bike around town for 2.5 hours today, running errands and visiting friends. I've missed cycling so much. 
JULY 17: I am grateful for riding the Flathead Alternate (Grizzly Alley). It was challenging -- with steep passes, "The Wall," and riding through creek beds. But it was entirely rewarding. Woohoo!
AUGUST 13: I am grateful for watching my colorful group of Pacific Northwest cyclists weave harmoniously along the Larry Scott/Pacific NW trail. 

9) Solitude

In On Solitude, I explain the benefits of basking in solitude: increased self-awareness, improved self-sufficiency, and greater presence, to name a few. I have been incredibly grateful for moments of solitude. Some of these moments have lasted just a few minutes, while others have lasted weeks. 
JUNE 17: I am grateful for being able to have alone time while enjoying a nice, hot shower.
JULY 24: I am grateful for space to myself, alone, in my tent. 

10) Downtime

This category includes mentions of time to relax, rest, and recover. Most mentions of downtime were before or after trips or social engagements.
FEBRUARY 11: Estoy agradecido por tomarme el tiempo de cerrar mis ojos y centrarme. [I am grateful for taking the time to close my eyes and center myself.]
MAY 1: I am grateful for taking a hot bath -- that blissful moment when I turn off the faucet, hear complete silence, sink my naked body under the hot water, and focus on nothing but the flicker of the candle. 

Other notable categories that received gratitude in 2019 include: experiencing anticipation, having freedom in how I spend my days, teaching, being inspired (typically in the form of movies and books), and being in-flow.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal has enabled me, on a daily basis, not only to focus attention on the things that make my life good, but also to boost my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Furthermore, my year-end review of my Gratitude Journal has made it evident that I benefit from making space in my life for more connections, serendipity, movement, nature, solitude, and rest. I will also keep on doing hard things and honoring my self-love practices.

As I move into 2020, I will continue writing daily entries in my Gratitude Journal. This practice has been extremely valuable, in numerous ways.


  1. This is a great idea! Michelle and I review the slips in the grateful teapot after dinner every New Year’s Eve, but this was Much ambitious on your part, and a great way to learn about yourself and remember the good of the year!

    1. I remember you telling me about your grateful teapot. In fact, I shared your tradition with a friend just the other day! Yeah for traditions, and yeah for gratitude!

    2. And we learned of the grateful jar concept from somewhere else. Who knows, maybe someday gratitude will go viral if we keep trying!

      By the way, I am grateful we both wake up.another day! Glad you are out there Sarah :)

    3. Viral gratitude -- ha! The world would likely be a better place if that were the case. 😁


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