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In which a book changes John's life. The book in question, Kurzgesagt's Gratitude Journal, can be found here: https://shop-us.kurzgesagt.org/products/gratitude-journal

I am also grateful for (among much else) Kurzgesagt's videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsXVk37bltHxD1rDPwtNM8Q
And especially their video on dissatisfaction and rewiring the human brain to feel gratitude: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPPPFqsECz0

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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday.  

I suppose every book I read shifts my perspective in some way and I almost always feel like my life is richer for having read a book, even if the book wasn't particularly good, but I rarely feel like a single book made a lasting and significant change in my life, but this book really has.

This is a gratitude journal made by Kurzgesagt, the people behind those phenomenally beautiful and informative videos.  You know, the ones with the birds and the breath-giving wisdom about how to go on and why.  They made a video a while back about gratitude and the evidence that a strong sense of gratitude is good for human health and well-being and then they released a gratitude journal, which I promptly bought, because I'm a sucker for journals.

Now, I have a long history of buying journals I don't actually write in because there's this huge difference between the person I actually am and the person I wish to be, and I continue to believe despite all evidence that somehow making a purchase will help me bridge this divide, but it never does, except this time, it did!  

So the book starts out just having me notice what happened today, where I might have found something to be thankful for, and then over time it moves from that hypothetical to the concrete, asking me to write about what I'm grateful for that day specifically and also in my life more generally, and then every few pages, there's information about a scientific study about gratitude or a reflection exercise.  It's a really wonderful book and I will link to it in the doobly-doo below, but I should also note that my kids are doing gratitude journals with me, and they do their gratitude journals in like, 30 cent notebooks, which also work, because the idea is very simple.  Every day, even on miserable days, write down what you're grateful for.  

I've been doing this for the last few months, which of course have not been just any few months, and it really has changed the way I feel about human life.  This is partly because I now go through the day looking for what I might write about, whatever little moments gave me a break from the dread.  For instance, yesterday, Alice and I spotted a great horned owl in the backyard and we observed its behaviors and we researched great horned owls to find out why they have yellow eyes and we watched YouTube videos about great horned owls, and so this morning, I wrote about how I was grateful for the internet, at least the pleasant great horned owl enthusiast corner of the internet, and also grateful to the owl and grateful to have a backyard that is apparently owl-friendly.  

So Hank, like many people, my brain problems have been dramatically amplified by the wider problems which makes it hard at times to think straight.  Of course, I know I'm incredibly lucky and have a lot to be grateful for, but the thing is, I've been saying that my whole life.  Like, any time I'd be having a miserable time of it, I would say, I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but I didn't know it, because I wasn't paying attention to what I was grateful for.  I was only paying attention to what I yearned for, like for instance, a brain that can handle a crisis without resorting to its worst and most dangerous habits, but just by writing for a few minutes every day, if I really focus on what I'm thankful for, I can not just know that I have a lot to be grateful for, I can feel that I have a lot to be grateful for.  

I am grateful for owls and for spring and for safe food and water and for the health of my family, but most of all, I find myself writing about my gratitude to other people for their generosity.  I'm grateful to my kids' teachers for figuring out how to e-learn with almost no preparation, but also I'm grateful to my teachers, many of them gone now, because their love and support held me together and in some ways, still holds me together.  

I'm grateful to my brother for keeping things running with compassion and determination.  I'm grateful to my kids for their resilience and good humor, and I'm grateful to many strangers, whose work brings me joy and comfort, from Muhammad Salah to Mary Oliver, and when I am feeling grateful, I also know that I am not alone, that the love of friends and family, even those who are far away, even those I will never see again, is still with me, just as my love is still with them, and that's how I know I can make it through, one day at a time, as long as I stay on the lookout for owls and other gifts.

So thank you, Kurzgesagt, for all the wonderful videos and for this little book, which really has changed my life, and we could all use a little change.  Hank, I'll see you on Friday.