How To Remain Grateful

How To Remain Grateful

Michael Forrest - 5th May 2020

Every so often I see an article listing “indispensable tips from highly successful people” and one of the pieces of advice is usually to remain grateful e.g. “list five things for which you are grateful, every day”. I have tried this particular bit in the past but even using Good Habits I never could quite stay on top of it. It can be difficult to stop and count the reasons everything’s brilliant when you’re late for work and rushing to get dressed and out of the door.

I do feel it is important to make time for this sort of thing and the way I found to do this was to create a secular adaptation of the Jewish song Dayenu.

Dayenu - “It would have been enough”

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not a big fan of organised religion, but I do believe that there are things we miss out on by living a purely secular life.

Rituals have always been an important part of human life and can help us transcend the mundanity of our day-to-day lives, to feel a connection with our wider community and to think about the bigger picture in high-minded moral terms, even if only for a couple of hours a week.

I’m deeply familiar with the rituals of Catholicism and some branches of Christianity but other faiths and practices have always been a bit more mysterious so I was interested when I had the opportunity to join a Passover ritual with my partner’s family.

Dayenu, part of this Passover ritual, is a sequence of fifteen stanzas, each followed by “dayenu”, which means “it would have been enough”. “Even if He had [only]* brought us out of Egypt, it would have been enough”. “Even if he had [only] split the sea for us, it would have been enough”.

*my “[only]”s

Looking over it on Wikipedia it seems a little more bloodthirsty than I remember but my interpretation is that this prayer is all about gratitude; enumerating things to be grateful for and saying that even if just one of those things had happened, it would have been enough.

Inventing a Secular Ritual of Gratitude

In our house we light candles every Friday to usher in the weekend. I find this a nice way to cement the end of my working week, even if only because it forces me to stop working and wind down.

This year, we added a new step to this ritual. We each take a small piece of card and fill it with everything we’re grateful for this week. Then we tell each other what we’ve written before adding it to a nice crystal bowl.

Even if we had a bad week, we can always find something to be grateful for, however small, that would have been enough. Seeing the accumulation of little colourful squares of gratitude in our bowl helps us remember how lucky we really are.

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