If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the occasional photo or Instastory of my beloved gratitude jar that I have been working on for the past few months. It is a wonderful way of cultivating a positive outlook on your everyday life, and I have been meaning to write about all the benefits it provides for some time now.
What exactly is a gratitude jar?
The idea behind the gratitude jar is to make a routine of jotting down the little things that made you happy during your day, in an effort to remember to be grateful for the positive moments instead of dwelling on the negative. Then, you simply drop the piece of paper into the jar as a reminder of those simple moments that made you smile.
It has been shown that we, as human beings, have brains that remember negative events more easily than positive ones. This article explains that this is linked to our ancestry as cavemen, where one would need to remember mistakes or ordeals in order to ensure the survival of the species. Remembering that fire burns is a particularly useful piece of information, far more so than the fact that dancing flames look beautiful in the moonlight.
However, this useful habit our brains have also tends to make us focus on the less-than-fun parts of our lives, and can prevent us from remembering all the positive moments. And that’s where the gratitude jar comes in!
The benefits of having a gratitude jar
Adding happy memories to my gratitude jar every day encourages me to take the time to check in with myself and see how I am doing. If it is particularly difficult for me to find happy memories, I realise that I did not enjoy my day and that my mood is fairly glum in consequence. I find that it is on bad days that it is most important to search for memories to drop into the jar, as those are the times when you really need to work on focusing on the positive. It is also a fairly effective memory exercise to replay your day in your head!
I have found that making the habit of focusing on positive (albeit small) moments has reminded me that each day is an opportunity to make more happy memories. I believe that we often get lost in the pursuit of bigger goals that we think will make us happy, when really, we often already have everything we need. For example, I would like to live in a cute little country house one day, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be happy living in a flat in the meantime.
Of course, you could also write down your daily joys in a pretty notebook, just think over them in your head before bed or find another creative way of remembering them, but I personally find that the gratitude jar works best for me as it is a colourful visual reminder of all the happy moments I have been lucky enough to experience! Just looking at the overflowing jar makes me feel optimistic.
This would be a great exercise to do with children after school in order to encourage them to reflect on their day. And just imagine keeping those memories until the children are grown and able to appreciate what a lovely insight into the past those everyday moments really are.
I also like the fact that my gratitude jar starts a conversation with people who see it in my living room: I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked what that big pile of folded paper is! Most of the time, this leads to an interesting discussion on the pace at which we lead our lives, how time flashes by without us even realising it, and how we forget to enjoy the everyday moments.
I am really looking forward to rereading all my memories at the end of the year, and I will probably start a new jar in January 2018. I am still wondering what to do with the paper memories, and I am thinking that I will probably unfold them all and stick them in order in a notebook so I can look at them once in a while.
Do you have a gratitude jar, or another way of practicing gratitude on a day-to-day basis? If you do, do you have any plans for the paper memories once the jar is full?