For this Thanksgiving Create a Gratitude Journal

Creating a Gratitude Journal based on Book I of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Instructions: Use the method based on The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius to create your own Gratitude Journal.

The Beginning of your Journal:

1) Begin your first entry by writing about the individuals and life experiences (joyful ones as well as those that caused suffering) that influenced you and how they may have contributed to the development of characteristics that you like about yourself (you can even incorporate feedback that others have given you). When indicating a characteristic, make the connection between the person(s) and/or experience that taught you and the characteristic itself. For example, Marcus wrote, “I learned gentleness and perseverance from my adoptive father.” For this entry, you would want to list at least 4 characteristics and connected influences (you can indicate more if you want).

2) After you create your list, take about 5 minutes (or more if you need) to feel your influences. Close your eyes and call to mind the person and/or experience that served as your “teacher”. Visualize that person and/or experience, feel whatever feelings or emotions that arise in your awareness, and then silently to yourself, express gratitude by saying either “Thank you”, “I accept you,” or “I welcome you” to that person and/or experience that taught you. If you would like, you can repeat this practice every day, especially as new experiences arise.

3) At some point over the next week, take one of your characteristics that was influenced by a person in your life and then thank him/her.

  • If the person is far away, call him/her on the phone and express your gratitude, being sure to mention why you are expressing such gratitude. (Pay attention to how you feel throughout the process and allow yourself to feel whatever feelings come).
  • If the person is close by, arrange an in-person meeting so that you can tell him/her face-to-face. (Again, pay attention to your feelings).
  • If the person is no longer living, write him/her a letter. After you finish, read the letter either to yourself or someone that you very much trust (and pay attention to your feelings throughout).

The Rest of your Journal:

1) For the beginning of each day, soon after you wake up, write down something or someone for which/whom you are grateful. (Give yourself at least 5 minutes to feel gratitude in relation to that something or someone).

2) At the end of each day, when you can get some quiet time, reflect on what you learned from the day, paying attention to individuals or experiences that may have taught you certain virtues or contributed to the development of positive character traits. After you have reflected, write about your encounters with those individuals and/or experiences and the development of any virtue(s) or characteristic(s) that may have developed. After you have completed your writing, silently express gratitude, allowing yourself to feel whatever arises.

(Ian Edwards–Director of Duquesne University Counseling and Wellbeing Center)


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