One of my favorite lessons from a seminar with Maryanne O’Brien of Live Dynamite was to keep a gratitude log. You can do this in a journal, on cards or Post-its that you keep in plain sight, in a mental record, or with various online sites and social media.
Generally, I note my appreciation in a mental checklist, but when I see or experience kindness from a stranger, I like to write it down and share it with Kyle. (Positive emotions are good for marriages: According to studies by psychologist John Gottman, PhD, for every one negative expression, there needs to be five positive ones — whether that’s a kind smile or a compliment — for the relationship to flourish. I figure sharing my feel-good observations helps build that ratio in our favor.)
Recently, I had such an experience at my local Whole Foods Market. I was picking up a few groceries after my evening workout, somewhat in a daze from the intensity of the routine I had just completed, when another shopper gave me a friendly hello while picking out lemons. After he left, he continue making his way around the store waving, smiling and chatting up other shoppers.
Since I have a long-standing history with cynicism, I questioned his intentions. Perhaps he was trying to score a date. He must have an angle, right? But as he moved through the aisles saying hello, I could see he was genuinely a friendly guy — or at least, choosing to be positive in this moment in time.
At checkout, an announcement was made about a blue Subaru in the parking lot. Thinking it was mine, I spoke up and was approached by a woman who said she brushed the side of my car with hers and wanted to exchange insurance information. Outside, we realized she did not, in fact, hit my car and the car in question was now gone. Still, the fact that the woman came back inside to track down the owner warmed my heart. She could’ve easily drove away, but made the choice to do the right thing.
Yesterday in Minnesota, we received our first big snowfall — a beautiful sight and delightful playground for children of all ages, but a challenge for travel. The kindness that pours out during inclement weather is touching: the neighbors shoveling each others’ sidewalks, pushing stuck cars, even giving rides to those without all-wheel drive.
If you see random acts of kindness, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below. And consider keeping a gratitude journal for the week with me (I’ll be posting my notes every evening this week). At the end of the week, re-read your positive messages and take note of how you feel. It’s a simple practice and only takes a few minutes, and it might turn into a routine you’ll keep. Even better, one that could evolve from observation into action.