Keep it simple with gratitude and poetry

A gratitude journal in tough times

I started my first gratitude journal when I was 17 years old. I learned the basics from The Oprah Winfrey Show – list five specific things each day in a few sentences. I liked the idea when I heard about it the first time but my first entry only happened after the big tragedy of losing my mother.

It was not an attempt to gloss over the pain and sorrow but I think it was a response to a promise I made to myself not to grow bitter or become cynical. Every entry is related to the loss but they are also detailed and specific moments of love from a time which easily could have been lost in the following dizziness of despair and grief. I flipped over my pocket journal and in the back of this diary, I listed five things each day. To this day I thank my younger self for this act of resilience.

Since then I have kept a gratitude journal off and on but during the time of the coronavirus I am picking it up again. I do it because for me it is the best way to remember how it really was later on. Even though I write about it in a journal or diary the thing that sparks my memory best in the future is often my entries from the gratitude journal. Here I find the specific things that my five senses got exposed to and the small details of everyday life in lockdown.

National Poetry Month

I believe in keeping things simple these days and even though poems are far from simple it fits me well for my reading habits that this month is national poetry month. I write my five lines of gratitude and I read a poem. Because it is spring and many environmental issues get a new perspective when countries are in lockdown I went with the Collected Poems by Wendell Berry.

I wrote my first poem when I was 23 years old. It was a prompt from a writing coach who triggered it. I never thought of myself as a poet but I had an inherent rhythm and use of senses that made some of the sentences stand out enough to surprise myself.

Whenever I have been away from writing for a longer period it has surprised me that the writing of words is always coming back to me in the form of a poem. The weird thing is that when the poem is down on the page I am not writing another one until next time of hibernation and then my prose takes over my writing again.

Try this

  • Try and write 5 things you are grateful for – be as specific as possible

  • Read a poem

  • Write a sentence out as a poem based on one of your gratitude entries.

Action step | Print out the printable and fill it out. There is room for a daily, weekly and monthly entry. This doesn’t mean that it can only be used once. Print out as many as you want perhaps one for each day of April because the entries for the week and month can change from day to day based on mood and scope. If the weekly and monthly entries do become an iteration it doesn’t matter because then it is like a poem you learn to recite and can carry with you.

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