Start a Gratitude Journal Today

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Years ago, someone gave me a Tony Robbins CD to listen to. I was excited to hear what one of the most inspirational people of modern times would have to say and how it could change my life for the better. He started his talk by saying that he has the secret to both happiness and success. If you follow his advice and begin each and every day of your life exactly as he prescribes, he can all but guarantee you will find yourself both happier, and achieving your goals and dreams.


I was very eager to hear what his secret is.


What Tony Robbins said is correct, but for me, and for you, and for Jewish 3-year-olds around the world, it was nothing new. The secret to happiness and to achieving success, he said, is to start every day of your life by expressing gratitude. As soon as you wake up, before doing anything else, say thank you. Be grateful and appreciative for being alive, having a roof over your head, having your health if you are lucky, your family, etc.


He continued that it isn’t enough to think appreciatively, but you need to start your day by verbalizing and actually saying thank you out loud. If you do, the rest of your day is guaranteed to be successful and happy.


What Tony Robbins is teaching in the 21st century, Judaism has taught since its inception thousands of years ago. From an early age, we teach our children to wake up saying Modeh ani lefanecha, I am grateful to you God for the fact that I woke up, that I am alive to see another day, for the wonderful blessings in my life and for my relationship with You. It has been inculcated within us from our youth that we don’t wake up feeling entitled, deserving and demanding. Rather, we wake up with a deep and profound sense of gratitude, appreciation and thanks.


In my experience, Tony Robbins is right. How we start our day has an incredible impact on how the rest of it will go. This coming week we will celebrate Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer. Each day of the Omer is characterized by another kabbalistic attribute. Lag B’Omer is Hod sh’b’hod, the glory of glory, reflecting our appreciation of God’s greatness and glory. The Hebrew word hod can be understood as coming from the same word as hodu, or modeh, meaning thanks. Lag B’Omer is a day characterized as “thankfulness within thankfulness,” or a day to celebrate gratitude.


The Chassam Sofer, Rav Moshe Sofer says that the miraculous manna that fell from Heaven began to descend on Lag B’Omer. On the first day, the manna was undoubtedly greeted with great enthusiasm and appreciation, but as time went on and there was an increasing expectation the heavenly bread would descend, it became much easier to take it for granted and to forget to be appreciative for it at all. Therefore Lag B’Omer is a time that we identify and say thank you for all of the blessings that regularly descend into our lives, but unfortunately, like the manna, that we take for granted.


It is so easy to fall into a sense of entitlement and to forget to be grateful. Why should I thank my children’s teachers? They’re just doing their job. Why should I be so appreciative to the waiter, or the custodian, or the stewardess? Isn’t that what they are supposed to do? When was the last time we said thank you to whomever cleans our dirty laundry? Do we express gratitude regularly to our spouse who shops, cooks dinner, or who worked all day to pay for dinner, or in some cases did both? Are we appreciative of the small things like finding a parking spot, recovering from a cold, having a beautiful day, or tasting the sweetness of an apple?


Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California is pioneer in research on gratitude.  In one study he and his colleagues divided participants into three groups, each of which made weekly entries in a journal. The first group identified and wrote five things they were grateful for.  The second group made a daily list of five irritations and a third control group listed five events that had affected them in some way.  The study concluded that those who kept a daily gratitude list  felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic and reported fewer health problems or doctor visits than the other participants.


There are numerous apps for keeping a gratitude journal that will remind you to spend time identifying things for which to be grateful.   We may be almost 33 days into the omer, but it is not too late to make it day #1 of keeping a gratitude journal.


As we celebrate Lag B’Omer, let’s not just say modeh ani in the morning and then quickly transition to feelings of entitlement. Let’s remember to say thank you to the people who do extraordinary things in our lives. But even more importantly, let’s especially express gratitude to the people who do the ordinary things that make our lives so filled with blessing.