How a Simple Mason Jar Can Bring More Gratitude to Your Life

Lanterns from recycled Glass JarsI see a lot of articles on Facebook. Some are entertaining, some are interesting, and most I wish I had never wasted the time to read. But some of what I find is inspiring.

There were a couple of times I had seen a post about a “gratitude jar,” and I absolutely loved the idea. I often need to see things come around on my newsfeed a couple of times before I open them, read them through, and choose to act (or not act) based on what I read. Here was something I really wanted to put it into practice. I saw it as an experiment of sorts. I wanted to see what could happen as a result of having my own gratitude jar.

It was magical.

I purchased a large, glass mason jar, put it on my kitchen counter, and very simply labeled it “Gratitude Jar.” I put some post-it notes on top with a pen and instructed my family that we were beginning a group exercise and that the rules were simply that each person was to begin paying close attention to things that happened that they were thankful for, no matter how big or small or seemingly silly. We were going to “capture” those moments by writing them down on pieces of paper and depositing them in the jar.

There was no requirement to do it every day. No one would be checking on anyone else to see if they were following through. No one was required to participate; it was gently encouraged.

We decided we would open the jar after a year and together read the notes—the moments of gratitude held within.

Things got off to a slow start. Then, interesting things began to happen.

My perception began to shift. Instead of focusing on what went wrong during the day, my focus became what went right. I started to notice simple things like a momentary breeze on a hot day, having a traffic light turn green just as I was nearing the intersection, enjoying a good workout, or just savoring a few minutes to read a good book before falling asleep at night. The positive began to occupy much more real estate in my mind than the negative.

My perception began to shift. Instead of focusing on what went wrong during the day, my focus became what went right. I started to notice simple things like a momentary breeze on a hot day, having a traffic light turn green just as I was nearing the intersection, enjoying a good workout, or just savoring a few minutes to read a good book before falling asleep at night. The positive began to occupy much more real estate in my mind than the negative.

The notes accumulated. The others in my family saw the pile growing and began tossing theirs in as well. When one of us would twist the metal top of the jar, someone in another room would declare that they could HEAR gratitude being expressed!

Sometimes several days or even a couple of weeks would pass and I’d suddenly realize I hadn’t contributed anything to the jar. That’s how I’d know I needed to re-shift my thinking. I probably wasn’t as attuned as I needed to be to what was going well. And so I did.

We all have days that don’t feel so good. On those days, it was helpful to catch sight of the jar to remind me that I am, in fact, blessed, with a lot of things to be grateful for. The jar offered me support even when I was struggling to find ways to contribute to it.

It became a conversation piece. Visitors would ask what the significance was of the jar with the little papers in it. I’d explain and they’d become excited at the prospect of trying it for themselves.

A year passed. My family and I sat down around our kitchen table and emptied the gratitude notes in a big pile. One by one, we went around and read each note (it didn’t matter who wrote it). I was surprised to discover that everyone had participated, some more than I anticipated. We laughed as we recalled funny moments, were surprised at some of the things we cherished in common, and even got teary as we expressed through this process our sincere appreciation for one another.

We even discovered notes from those who had visited our home and had written and deposited them without our knowing!

As we finished reading the gratitude notes, we all agreed that this was something we wanted to do again. We filed the old notes away; we couldn’t bear to part with them and the good feelings they generated. When I left the kitchen that night and went to turn off the lights, I caught sight of several pieces of paper that were already making their home in the bottom of a jar that couldn’t stay empty for longer than just a few moments.

What will happen when YOU keep a gratitude jar?

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Laurie Leinwand, MA, LPC, therapist in Denville, New Jersey

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 12 comments
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  • Marielle

    Marielle

    November 25th, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    We started doing this as a family last year and our goal is to go through the jar this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas so that we can remember all of the blessings that we have received this past year. I started it just as a way to be more mindful of the good things that we have been so fortunate to have in our lives, big and small, and hopefully it can be used as a reminder of the things we should always be looking for, not so much of the yuck that everyday life can bring too.

  • Billy

    Billy

    November 25th, 2015 at 12:07 PM

    Too often it is so much easier to remember all of the bad in life instead of celebrating the good. This is a way to remember the important things in life.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    November 25th, 2015 at 12:52 PM

    The GoodTherapy.org team loves this concept and has decided to try this as a team-building exercise. We’ll revisit our gratitude jar quarterly. Here’s wishing everyone a lovely holiday!
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • Benji

    Benji

    November 25th, 2015 at 2:10 PM

    Tomorrow will be a wonderful day to start this new tradition at my house!

  • Laurie Leinwand

    Laurie Leinwand

    November 25th, 2015 at 5:39 PM

    I can’t speak highly enough about this practice. @Marielle, yes, it serves as a great reminder of the things we really need to be paying attention to. @The GoodTherapy.org Team, I’m excited for you! Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

  • Ilyssa

    Ilyssa

    November 25th, 2015 at 8:28 PM

    What a beautifully simple idea. Hmmm…
    What will my family think? Going to give it a try.
    Thanks😊

  • Macy

    Macy

    November 26th, 2015 at 6:21 AM

    Sometimes the simplest things in the world are the things that show us the true meaning of what life is all about. Keep it simple!

  • Laird

    Laird

    November 27th, 2015 at 7:30 AM

    My mom always did this at her house when we were young and i am telling you that even today this is the one thing that I always remember as making a big impact on my life.
    We never had too much in terms of all the goods and cool stuff, but when I look back on it I see that we always had everything that we needed.
    This alone makes me so grateful for being raised by a mom who was able to persevere and through it all provide for us everything that we ever needed.

  • Rozanne

    Rozanne

    November 27th, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with the Gratitude Jar. Over the last few years I have come to see and increasingly appreciate the amazing value of noticing gratitude a daily. Being grateful is one of the most practical, learnable mental health skills. It is among the “best practice” treatment interventions for depression & anxiety.
    You’ve given me a great idea for gifting this Holiday Season. I am going to make beautiful Gratitude Jars by crafting Mason Jars & give them as gifts to family and friends. That way this wonderful practice may be spread.
    Thanks again.
    Rozanne, LCSW

  • jade

    jade

    November 28th, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    so true… small gestures… big rewards

  • Madelyn

    Madelyn

    November 29th, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    It gives me a warm feeling just look at that jar, filled with all of things that the whole family is grateful for, and to know that the good in our home and our family far outnumber the bad.

  • VERNA

    VERNA

    November 30th, 2015 at 7:38 AM

    Seeing things like this always make me happy. I don’t know, it is always the little things like this that make me so appreciative of everything in my life that I know that I have worked hard for but that I have also been given.

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