IT’S BEEN A TOUGH YEAR. You’ve probably heard that at least a thousand times. But it’s true. And that toughness can lend a dark and uneasy tone to our lives.
But here comes Thanksgiving to remind us of our blessings. And why not? Even if there’s no turkey (bird or vegan) for our tables, even if our families (of origin or choice) are unable to join us to raise a glass, even if we have sustained devastating loss over the last few hundred days, still, we can—if we wish—look around and find something to be thankful for.
And doing so seems to be good for us! According to an article in FORBES, focusing on gratitude improves not only our psychological well-being, but our physical health. Feeling thankful may also help us sleep better and think better. And, certainly, it inclines us more positively toward ourselves and our fellow humans.
Writing prompts for gratitude
We writers often make sense of things by writing. So here are a handful of prompts to support you if you feel the need to shift your gaze from what’s not working to what is.
1) Start a gratitude journal. Making a daily list of three to five things we’re grateful for is a simple but effective way to keep gratitude alive in our hearts.
2) Write about a time when something wonderful happened (expected or not). Remembering any boon—from the timely discovery of a much-needed twenty-dollar bill to learning that a loved one’s health concern ended up being nothing for concern at all—reminds us that, like rays of sunshine, moments of well-being can break through the cloudiest of times.
3) Create a dour character who, like Eeyore, sees life as an endless series of difficulties. Put that character in unavoidable proximity to a person you might call a “Pollyanna,” someone who is unremittingly cheerful. Perhaps they become roommates or cubicle mates; or maybe Pollyanna marries into Eeyore’s close-knit family. Or they’re stuck in an elevator together! Or on a “three-hour tour“!
However you glue them together, let Pollyanna’s sunny outlook eventually push your Eeyore to a change of attitude. (This may take considerable doing. All the better for dramatic tension!)
4) Write about a random act of kindness and its unexpected, far-reaching effect. This can be something you did for someone else, or a kindness you received. You might also use this idea to launch a short story!
5) List your own good qualities, attributes of yours for which you’re grateful. Dig deep! Don’t be modest. In addition, you could list the ten best qualities of some of those closest to you. Bonus: Make any of these lists into a poem!
These prompts are just jump-starts, a handful of ways you might incorporate gratitude and thankfulness into your writing. They aren’t (necessarily) meant to elicit high literary art. They are meant to remind you of what’s going right in your world and send you into your day (or into your dreams) with a lighter heart.
And that’s something to be thankful for.
Here are some books I turn to when I need to boost my gratitude practice. In them, you’ll find folks whose compassion and generosity and appreciation of the everyday world make their own and others’ lives better.
29 GIFTS, Cami Walker
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