I have discovered a simple way to make my life better.
It starts with a piece of paper. On it I draw a large circle and divide the circle into seven segments. It resembles a ready-to-dish-up pie. There are big wedges of space for each day of the week, and in them, on a daily basis, I write something for which I am thankful.
I started by writing down one “thing” on each wedge but quickly concluded there was room for three thankful observations per day. Or maybe it wasn’t about available space. Maybe I’m evolving into someone with an increasingly more thankful heart.
I offer this concept as a seasonal reminder to be more personally appreciative about those seemingly small daily happenings that make one’s life better. It can be hard to do that — and sometimes it’s especially difficult, but it’s worth the effort. In early November, I actually found myself writing I that was grateful I did not feel quite as bereft as I felt the preceding day.
Yesterday’s wedge was filled with gratitude at receiving an unexpected email message from a faraway friend and seeing a faded rainbow in the sky during our morning walk. At the end of the day, I added a statement of thankfulness for my helpmate-husband of 30 years to whom I do not regularly offer enough tender acknowledgements. On Thanksgiving Day, I’m fairly sure I will be grateful there are four delicious pie choices, none of which I had to personally make. My husband will be thankful one of them is pecan.
The “gratitude wheel” is not my original idea, of course, and there are many versions. For example, it’s sometimes referred to as “The Wheel of Life” and a circular diagram labels each wedge and encourages exploring the gratitude you feel for the various aspects of your well-being (career, health, family etc.). Proponents suggest doing so will “deepen your understanding of where you are at this moment and where you want to be.”
At this stage of my life I think I understand where I am and where I was previously and, for now. I will stay with my one-day-at-a-time approach. But the idea of creating a gratitude wheel has many dimensions, and it might be just the season to start exploring the possibilities.
I have seen a sunshiny-looking gratitude wheel with “I am grateful for …” written in the center and dozens of spokes outlining special life-events. A gratitude wheel can involve a paper plate and colorful markers and become a thanksgiving craft project with a grandchild. Sharing your own weekly wheels may prompt rich discussion and new insight into the experiences and attitudes of an age peer or a family elder.
Some theorists suggest when you’re feeling grateful, “other things fall by the wayside.” For example, it’s hard to feel grateful and angry at the same time. It’s difficult to feel abundance and be depressed in the same moment. Research supports that grateful people have “higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.”
I feel abundantly thankful knowing that research has been done, and I am writing it down on today’s wheel before I forget it.
— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.