The past year has been traumatic for people from all walks of life. Pandemic, political unrest and economic uncertainty have dogged the footsteps of people around the world. Anxiety and depression continue to rise as we all confront the realities of life in 2021. This mounting mental health crisis has continued to hamper the long slow road to global recovery. As part of building back better, many people are choosing to implement new self-care strategies for their mental health.
One of the simplest and most effective of these strategies is an old self-care technique used by teachers and business professionals called a “smile file.” Sometimes called a “happy folder” in digital form, these are catch-all places to place objects and artifacts that bring us joy. It can be memes, printouts, poems, pictures or anything else that arrests our attention and makes us feel happy. When a joy collector feels anxious or depressed, they break out their ready supply of joy and get an instant dopamine boost.
Positive results with collecting artifacts that make us happy has inspired alternatives to increase positivity. The Gratitude Jar, like the happy folder, allows us to collect both the joy we find each day and gratitude for it. So how exactly does this work? More importantly, why should you consider starting a Gratitude Jar? Read on to learn more.
Why Start A Gratitude Jar?
Finding and collecting joy in our endless scrolling or copy/pasting is not enough. Social media, while bringing us into closer contact, also draws us into the comparison trap. More on that later. Additionally, virtual artifacts are fine, but we can do better when taking a holistic approach to our mental health. We need physical reminders to ground us in the here and now. Enter “The Gratitude Jar”.
What Is A Gratitude Jar?
A Gratitude Jar is something for storing memories and events you find to be grateful for each day. Most Gratitude Jar users keep a pen or pencil close by with some notecards. When something happens or you observe something deserving of gratitude, you write it down on a card. Now fold the card up and drop it in your Gratitude Jar.
When the jar is full, you open it up and lay your collected gratitude out on the table. Reading each card reminds you of all the good you have in your life and helps you to keep a balanced perspective. There are many benefits to starting a Gratitude Jar, but I’ve outlined a few of my favorites below.
Benefits Of Creating A Gratitude Jar
Gratitude Jars Help Us Maintain A Balanced Perspective
Browsing and scrolling social media, it is all too easy to get sucked into the perfect images that people project online. It’s important to maintain the perspective that everyone wants to project perfection. If you fake it until you make it, you must be truly happy, right?
Sadly, this is rarely the case: everyone has their struggles and their challenges to overcome. Since outsiders rarely see that perspective, it’s very easy to compare your life to others and come up short. This is what is commonly called “The Comparison Trap”, and it can be devastating to your mental health. Creating a Gratitude Jar is one of the best ways to counteract the effects of comparison traps and establish a healthy mindset.
Gratitude Jars Allow Us To Escape The Comparison Trap
In this trap, we become obsessed with changing our life to look like the lives we observe on social media. Because these lives are generally fabricated, edited or focused wholly on positives, it’s easy to become disheartened when you are struggling yourself. An excellent solution to this scenario is to block or unfollow these people on your social media accounts. Once you’ve done that, get some crafting supplies and make a Gratitude Jar.
When something positive occurs or you accomplish a goal, write it down on a gratitude card with the date. Put the card in the jar, and then go about your day. Start with the small goal of adding one gratitude card each day. You may find as you search for joy and happiness each day that you end up writing more cards. Don’t worry though: that’s part of the process.
Eventually, as you write and review your cards, you will see the many positives of your life creating a larger and larger pile as time passes. With the pressures of social media reduced, it becomes easier to focus on what you have, not what you don’t. You reject the mindset of wishing for what you don’t have, and adopt one of gratitude instead.
Gratitude Jars Help Us Establish A Healthy Mindset
A “gratitude attitude” makes every aspect of our lives better. We flood our brains with dopamine as we write each card, and this improves our outlook on everything that happens. Instead of focusing on every little thing that goes wrong, we turn our attention to what we have gained. Reviewing our cards regularly reinforces this mindset, and eventually we train our minds to look for gratitude over anger, fear or resentment. There are few actions you can take that are as beneficial to your mental health as adopting a gratitude attitude.
Ready to make your own Gratitude Jar? Let’s get you started.
How To Make A Gratitude Jar
Here’s what you need:
- A jar (or any other transparent/translucent container) with a secure lid.
- A label
- Permanent marker
- Tape or glue
- Sticky notes or 3”x5” index cards.
- A pen, pencil or other writing utensil
- Write “Gratitude Jar” on the label.
- Assemble your Gratitude Jar by attaching the label to it in whatever way seems best.
- Place your Gratitude Jar where you can easily add cards to it throughout your day
- Place your writing utensils and cards adjacent to the jar or within easy reach.
- Allow life to continue happening.
- Write down the good things that you are grateful for as they occur.
This is a simple but powerful way to effect change, not only in your mental health, but in your daily life. Want to take things to the next level? Check out these tips for creating your Gratitude Jar.
Tips For Creating Your Own Gratitude Jar
1. Personalize It
Your jar can be as simple or elaborate you want it to be. You can cover it in stars, glitter and colorful stickers. Or you can keep it simple and just add a label with some text or handwritten script. Whatever you decide, you should make it beautiful and attractive to you. You are far less likely to use something that doesn’t fill you with feelings of joy. Keep that in mind as you are deciding how you want your Gratitude Jar to look.
2. The More Colorful The Better
Everything about your gratitude jar should pop with color. Cards should be in a stark contrast or complement the color scheme of the Gratitude Jar. Keep crazy-shaped pens in different colors, bright markers, glitter glue, and anything else that will grab your attention from across the room. Life and color make it much easier to notice your jar and remember to write down what you are grateful for.
3. Consider Adding Built In Storage
One of the best ways to get the most out of your Gratitude Jar is to attach materials storage to the jar itself. Building a writing utensil and card storage container right onto your jar makes it much easier to add cards throughout the day. Moreover, it eliminates the problem of having something to write down and searching for your pen and cards. It’s a smart little upgrade that makes using your Gratitude Jar that much more convenient.
Now that you’ve got your jar and customized it, you’re ready to start making your gratitude cards. What should you write down? Here are some excellent ideas for inspiration.
Gratitude Jar Card Ideas
There are infinite possibilities when it comes to what to write on your Gratitude Jar cards, but I’ve made a list of some of my favorites. Here are the most useful ideas and writing prompts I’ve found for adding gratitude cards to my jar:
- What core needs in my life are being met? (food, shelter, safety, etc.)
- Who is making a positive impact on your life right now? Write down who and why.
- What is an important lesson you learned recently?
- What have you moved on from or let go from your life? Why are you grateful for this?
- What new habits have you started?
- What are you most looking forward to today?
- What is a quote or idea you recently learned about that inspires you? Why?
My list is brief, but the amount of gratitude cards it can generate is vast. As you use your jar more, you will develop your own prompts and find yourself inspired by the events of your life. Wonders and miracles happen daily all around us. We only need to be certain we are looking for them.
Clearly, starting a Gratitude Jar is one of the best steps you can take to improve your self-care and your mental health. Now it is time for you to put your learning into action. Find a suitable jar at home or a store, make your label, and find some cards and pens. Make your own Gratitude Jar, and start putting that Gratitude Attitude into practice. You will be amazed at how quickly you begin seeing results.