07/07/2014 10:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Gratitude Changed My Life

Kohei Hara via Getty Images

For several years, inspired by Oprah Winfrey and The Oprah Winfrey Show, I have kept a gratitude journal and have been journaling every night, listing 3-5 things from each day for which I am grateful. At the outset, this process was difficult for me, because I had become accustomed to ruminating on the negative, to stewing in my sense of being unjustly aggrieved, and to letting small moments of difficulty overtake the tremendous pieces of light and love that had filled my heart and life.

Initially, my gratitude journal would often have a common theme -- "I am happy that the worst case scenario didn't happen." If my bag broke on the way to the office, I would write in my journal that I was grateful that the papers in my bag didn't blow away in the wind. If I spilled hot chocolate all over myself, I would say at least I wasn't wearing my white pants. In time, however, I began to eschew this tendency and view the moments of my day and the gratitude they engendered as joyous gifts.

I was able to use the journal to take notice of the small pockets of light and love in my life, e.g., the kindness of a stranger in opening the door for me, the bus driver's boisterous greeting when I got on the bus in the morning, the warm words of affection in a friend's email, and the love of my parents' voices on our daily telephone call.

One example of the gratitude journal's impact on my life is particularly tangible. I am legally blind. I have been legally blind since 2005, and over the past few years, my eyesight has been further deteriorating. Despite the stresses associated with this decline, what this experience has taught me is that I must seize every precious moment and live life to the fullest. To this end, every single day, I take what I call "mental gratitude pictures" and write about these pictures in my gratitude journal. Usually, this process involves me 1) pausing; 2) taking notice of a particular moment, image or detail around me; 3) taking a deep breath; 4) closing my eyes; and 5) envisioning the moment, image, or detail in my mind.

For instance, when I see the sun reflect off a building, or the smile on someone's face, or the color of a flower or scarf, or the billowy clouds, I take a moment, pause and take a mental picture. The literal images I see through my eyes are fuzzier now, and I know in time, my physical eyesight will worsen. These mental gratitude pictures remind me to live in the moment and to treasure the world around me.


One day, should my ability to experience the world through my eyes be completely limited, I know that my heart will be filled with these mental gratitude pictures amassed over years of conscious observation of the blessings around me. As author, spiritual teacher, and thought leader Marianne Williamson wrote on her Facebook page on Monday, June 15, 2014:

At least once a day, stop long enough to allow yourself to be truly amazed by a tree, or a flower, or the sunlight dancing on land or sea. That is the sacred space, the place within us where we are witness to the ongoing miracles of life. And the more we are open to truly seeing them around us, the more we are able to truly feel them within us. Miracles are everywhere, all the time, waiting to be plucked by our awareness into the makings of a happy life.

Keeping a gratitude journal and taking these mental gratitude pictures have made me more conscious, every moment of every day, of the many miracles life has to offer, if I simply take the time to notice them.

What are you grateful for? Please share with me in the comments section below!