Practicing Gratitude

by jon on February 5, 2012

I always hear that we should practice gratitude more but for a while I wasn’t sure that really meant for me. Brene Brown’s book called “The Gifts of Imperfection” helped me see that we need practice it both with ourselves and others. And over the past few weeks, I think I identified some ways to practice gratitude more in my life. It all started with a box.

I saved a bunch of notes I received from other people at the Learning as Leadership seminar this past July. On the last day, we all took time to think about certain individuals that impacted us at the seminar. Then we spent 20 minutes or so writing short, specific messages to each person that came to mind. We hand delivered each note to the appropriate person and everyone left with wonderful personal messages from others. It was one of my favorite parts of the seminar. I decided to save all these notes, because they were very meaningful to me.  I re-read them on occasion, because it reminds me that I can make a positive impact on others just by being myself.

So this collection of notes sparked an idea for creating a gratitude box. Over the years, I had saved thank you notes from friends and family.

I was also inspired after watching my new favorite TED video on Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg. Louie talks about all the beautiful things in our world and how our only response should be gratefulness. Like the fact that I can turn a switch and light comes on. Or how I could make someone’s day better just with my smile. So I started adding things I am grateful for to my box like the note below.

Now I have this box of gratitude that is growing every day, and I will read some of the notes in it each day.  This will be my way of practicing gratitude with myself.

So how can I translate this to others? Well, I am going to send more notes to friends and family and not just when I need to thank them. But just because I am grateful for someone’s friendship, support or the advice they gave me to make a better decision.

It would be difficult for me to practice more gratitude with my dog Brooks, but I will try.  It probably just means more walks and hikes!  ha.

I want to thank men and women in uniform more when I see them in public places. Just a simple, “hey, thank you for your service to this country.” I love it when pilots on a flight announce that we have military on the plane and without asking the whole plane starts clapping.

Some people have taken this to a whole new level. A friend named Caitlin Boyle created an entire movement called Operation Beautiful where people post sticky notes in public places telling others “you are beautiful” and many other awesome things. As she says on her website, her movement is “transforming the way you see yourself one post-it note at a time.” A mission to spread beautiful words and touch the lives of others…how cool is that? And I bet the people leaving the messages have just as much fun as the people who randomly see them…


So how could you practice gratitude more or even create your own little gratitude box? If you create a box, start by putting anything in there that brings a smile to your face. It could be pictures or momentos too. It could be even a moment you write down that takes you to a really special memory. I just wrote one where “I was grateful for that day I got to eat pizza by the pool at the Signorello winery with my good friends Phil and Brenda.” The chef even let me make my own Margherita pizza in the wood burning oven. Yes, I LOVE making homemade pizzas.

Since I want to practice gratitude more often, if you leave a comment with your address, I will send you a handwritten note over the next month. You can always email me directly with your address too. And remember you are helping me practice gratitude by asking! When I express gratitude to myself and others, I find that I am just a happier person. That is my little one plus one is more than two meaning of the day.


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda Guinand February 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm

We are grateful for sharing that trip with you too. What a great post about gratitude! Love this inspiration today.


jon February 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

Thanks Brenda! That was one of my favorite trips, but most of the ones with you guys are at the top of my list!


Eleanor Rodway February 6, 2012 at 9:47 am

Max made the picture cut!!! I love it


jon February 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

yes, he did! His other card is on my desk at work. His thank you notes are pretty special!


Jamie Rodway February 6, 2012 at 9:51 am

Hey Jon!!! Great blog. I’m late to the game on this. Eleanor just sent me the link. I will now follow with enthusiasm. This is very cool.

Also, we were honored that Max’s card made your group of pictures. It’s all he’s taking about (in a jibberish gosh-I-wish-I-knew-real-words kind of way that we translated into “Thanks Uncle Jonny”).

My 2 cents on gratitude. Last year Eleanor and I signed up for a program called Send Out Cards. It’s one of these deals that does make you some money but more importantly it has shown us the power of sending people cards. It’s been really amazing. We now send out birthday cards, thank you cards, just because cards on a regular basis and the feedback completely supports everything you said in your blog. The concept is basically there are lots of emails sent in this world but the art of sending actual mail is almost lost. However, there is still something remarkably special about openning mail that’s not a bill, junk, etc. If you want more info on the system let me know. It’s really inexpense (62 cents for a card or 93 cents for a completely custom one) and simple. We love it.

Check out this video:

I’m not trying to pitch this to you but thought you might find it interesting and/or helpful to what you are doing. Good luck with everything and lets get together soon.



jon February 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm

This is a great site Jamie! Thanks for sending. Max is the man! I will take a look at the site, but I also really enjoy handwritten notes.


Andrea February 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Interesting your friend started operaton beutifull, a few years a ago i while shopping, I ran across all these sticky notes in the dressing room. One on each mirror stating things like: you are beutifull, you are loved. I had to go through the entire dressing room and read all the different ones!


Dawn February 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hi Jon!
Loved this blog. I bookmarked it so I can refer to it and check out the links you’ve posted. I am currently writing a curriculum for enrichment after school programs that will get children involved in random acts of kindness, practicing gratitude and being positive members of their community and the world. A gratitude box is a GREAT thing to teach them at a young age. My mind is swirling with new ideas just from reading all you wrote. Thank you for sharing. Tonight, I’m grateful for you and your wonderful ideas.
p.s. I, too, am a huge fan of the handwritten note. I have always written thank you notes, taught my sons to write thank you notes and I have gone so far as leaving hand written cards on windshields or in grocery baskets just to wish the finder a great day.


jon February 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm


Wow, thank you so much for the amazing comment. Your words sure meant a lot! It sounds like your after school program is off to a great start making our world a better place. I love idea of leaving some handwritten notes in random places like a grocery cart. It is funny you say that about teaching your sons the art of the handwritten note. I love getting them so I finally said maybe I could start sending them more so others would have the same feeling. I always feel much better after I put that card in the envelope. It sure keeps life simple. I hope we stay connected. Have a great night.


jon February 14, 2012 at 6:12 am

Also, I decided to print your comment and add it to my gratitude box!


Dawn February 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

Thanks!! That is quite a compliment..making the gratitude box!! I saw a box the other day that I am thinking will make a great gratitude box for myself. It looks like a beautiful book but when you lift the cover, it’s empty inside to hold all sorts of treasures. It’s combining my favorite things: books (all sorts of words) and learning to be grateful. It will look lovely wherever I put it. I’m excited to start. I used to keep a gratitude journal. Every night I would list 10 things I was grateful for that day. Believe me, some days it was a stretch (“today I’m grateful for creamy chocolate pudding.”) but then I realized those little things were important too and soon started to push out the thoughts of grumping and complaining. Huh, I wonder why I stopped doing that! lol
You are so right about getting handwritten notes!! When I see someone’s handwriting in my mailbox, I’m so tempted to rip it right open. But instead, I open the rest of the mail and make myself wait until the end for the personal stuff…sort of like dessert, ya know. They are, of course, too far and few between. I try to write as often as possible. I’ll send thank you cards for any little thing that will make someone feel appreciated, bdays and of course, the very BEST reason to get a card…no reason at all!! And of course each day I look for a way to make someone smile. (I love Random Acts of Kindness and one of my faves is to give an extra $2 at the place I buy my coffee and ask her to “buy” the coffee of the next customer, tell them it’s from a stranger who hopes they have a great day.)
Anyway, it’s time to start mine…finally. I hope that you have a great day!


jon February 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Dawn! Loved your reply. Maybe we were separated at birth. haha. I too am giddy when I see handwritten notes in the mail. I almost hope that I will find one in there and do not like seeing all the typed out mail! haha. I am excited to hear about what goes in your box so let me know. I also keep a rock (given to all participants) from the seminar I went to last August near my box. It reminds me of the wonderful people I met out there. I also keep one of my grandfather’s old 10K medals near the box too. It reminds about the way he lived his life and what an inspiration he was to me. Even just typing this comment to you, I am so grateful to have had him in my life. I write about him in my first ever post on the blog.

I love the idea of leaving that extra $2 at Starbucks. What an awesome idea. I am going to do that this weekend. That is definitely the true meaning of 1 + 1 > 2. It is nice to be co-creating my noble goal with you.


Dawn February 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Hi again Jon! Perhaps we were separated at birth. It’s great to talk to someone so like minded. I am excited to see what will go in my box too…lol. One thing will definitely be a note dad gave me today (disappointed that he typed it…he ALWAYS hand writes notes!!). It said that he was the first man to fall in love with me…the day I was born and would love me forever and the second guy just hasn’t been lucky enough to find me yet but he’s out there. How could I NOT be grateful for a love like that?? Heck, if I could fold dad up, I’d put him in the box!!
Your grandfather ran a 10k, huh?? That is pretty motivational. I’m trying to think about a 5K. I used to run all the time in the Army but hated it. Thinking about giving it a try again…grateful that my son said he’s happy to run with me whenever I’m ready!
As far as helping create your noble goal…count me in! I belong to a great Facebook group called One Spark Can Start a Fire. They are doing things (big and small) each day to change the world. Their motto is we should each be a Spark of good in the world b/c that spark can catch and start a whole fire of good. For my bday this year, I had a picnic and invited my friends. I gave each of them a gift but it wasn’t for them to keep. They were charged with the task of leaving the gift somewhere for someone to find and brighten their day. (I told them what each item was so they could leave it appropriately). Some had candles, or stationary, a Dunkin Donuts gift card, lottery scratch off, a small child’s toy..all sorts of things. I did it b/c it made me feel good but they all LOVED it too, which made me happy. That’s a lot of happy people- me, my guests and each of their recipients. So easy to pass a smile along. Everyone should be doing it!
Going to make a cup of tea and read the blog you wrote about your grandfather. Enjoy your night.


Dawn February 14, 2012 at 10:56 pm

P.S. Wow, a granny smith apple with creamy (all natural) peanut butter..and a cup of tea is my favorite snack. One I have almost every night. I may well be a long lost family member. :)


jon February 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I love your stories. Such an amazing note from your father. Wow! I love your birthday party ideas too. That sounds like so much fun. Hope you got to enjoy your tea the other night! I may have to check out that Facebook site. A ripple effect of compassion!


Carole Levy February 14, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I love this post! I love the different resources and ideas that you are sharing (especially the last one, about leaving a note somewhere: “you are beautiful”!!). Here is my address: 14 Tamalpais avenue, CA Larskpur.
I’ve been recently working on the Art of Receiving: I’m eager to receive your gratitude so that I can express mine. Because the Art of Receiving equals the Art of Giving… That’s what I’ve recently learned. Xoxo


jon February 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Ah thank you Carole! I also need to work on the art of receiving. Any tips?


Marc-Andre Olivier February 15, 2012 at 12:08 am

Jon, great post. Great ideas. Great comments. Full of Greateness. I’m feeling Great Full. I mean grateful for this insightful dialogue. You made my night !


jon February 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Marc-Andre, so nice to hear from you! I am grateful I got a comment from you! Thanks for the note.


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