A few days ago I read a blog post by a reader here. It was exploring a corker of an idea called ‘Homework for Life’, which sounded a little bit like a Gratitude Journal. It’s a simple idea, much like the things I talked about in my post about The Secret to Happiness about taking time to notice the little things, but it takes it a step further by getting you to actually write things down.
I read the post through a couple of times, then posted it to Twitter, tagging in a couple of my teacherly friends, saying, ‘Wouldn’t this be a fantastic thing to do with our kids?
A few days ago I tried it with my year 7 English class.
I asked them to sit silently for a few moments and think back across their day so far. I asked them to recall any pleasant moments that have happened. They could be big if they were desperate, but preferably they’d be really tiny. Things like noticing a pretty flower in someone’s garden on the walk to school, or patting a cat and hearing it purr, or laughing with your friends about something funny that happened.
The point is that it should be something that was a small thing in the scheme of things… something so small that it would soon be forgotten if it wasn’t written down.
Little smiles began to appear on people’s faces as they began remembering.
I set the timer for a couple of minutes and we all began writing.
After we’d finished, everyone read out what they’d written. There were some beautiful moments.
- One little girl said that as she got out of the car as she was being dropped off at school, her grandpa called her name. She turned around and looked back in the car. “Have a great day, love,” he said. She said that made her feel warm and special.
- A boy said that his best friend has been away sick for a few days. When he got to school today he saw his friend at the lockers and it made him really happy.
- One boy said that he solved a really hard Maths problem in class and he felt proud of himself.
- A girl took my flower example to heart and described in great detail one that she’d noticed that morning, right down to the bright yellow pollen in the centre.
- Another boy said that when his friends turned up at his house this morning to walk to school he was ready for them and they didn’t have to wait. He felt really good about that.
- (The background to this last one is that whenever I call the roll for a class, I mix up the order and whoever is last I say, “And the hideous Joe Lunchbucket… or whatever the name is.) A girl said,” I haven’t been hideous all year and I’ve been waiting to be. Ms Frogdancer called me hideous today and it made me smile.”
Of course, this is something that we can all do.
As we’re going along the path that leads to financial freedom, it’s all too easy to put all our focus on the future and forget to enjoy all of the little things that make each day a good one to be alive.
Why not jot down one thing that made you smile each day?
My friend Blogless Liz has kept a Gratitude Journal for years. At the end of the day she lists the things that have brought her pleasure that day. She told me that she told her year 8 class about this, and then a few days later one of the boys hung back after class and said, “Ms Blogless Liz, After you said that, I’ve started keeping a Gratitude Journal too and I’m feeling much happier.”
I’m going to start doing this. I fall into the trap of becoming impatient with the pace of my impending Financial Independence and I want it to happen NOW!!! I have the feeling that I’m not the only one.
Having something concrete to leaf through when we’re feeling like this will probably be helpful in making us remember that yes – our present lives are actually pretty darned good and we should enjoy it more as we finish off the job of becoming FI.
Even having the discipline of knowing that we have to have at least ONE thing to write down at the end of the day will make us notice the little things more – which of course is The Secret to Happiness.
**Just an update on Scout after her surgery. It’s now been two weeks and you’d never know that she was so sick. Her stitches are out, she’s still ball-obsessed and life is back to normal – but with an added dollop of thankfulness every time I look at her.
I get Boo to tell me one thing that made him happy each day on his way home from his day program. Most days it is lunch. And food drives him so that is OK. I think I might join in and think of something that makes me happy too. Thanks for the nudge.
When I started reading your blog I think Boo was maybe 7 or 8??? He’s come such a long way.
Our family intermittently plays “Three Awesome Things” at the dinner table, where we whip around and everyone says three things that were awesome about their day. I let my kids cheat and have four or five some days.
This is a pretty fun game that helps us all practice gratitude for small things too.
I like it!