Glass Jar with Lid Off

Jar of Gratefulness

This was my jar of gratefulness, a jar you fill with scraps of paper on which you’ve written things you’re grateful for or, more often, things you hope will come to fruition. It takes the concept of a vision board up a notch, surpassing the idea that putting things out into the vast universe causes them to manifest, and crossing the bridge into faith.

I started my first jar of gratefulness before I became a military spouse. It took six months and a bout of much-needed self-reflection for me to become serious about what was to become an exercise in trust. I became a serious believer when I wrote down a set of impossible criteria for what I desired in a partner, put it in the jar and met my husband before that year’s end.

The jar was my companion as we dated, married and then weathered his decision to join the military as a chaplain and my decision to accompany him and leave my law firm. The jar has accompanied us on every PCS since.

While I kept that piece of “husband paper” in the jar as a keepsake, the other strips rotated out as I made maintaining the jar a mindfulness activity, consciously adding new things to it for which I was grateful. Big things (like a safely arrived shipment of household goods or finding a job at a new duty station), small things, accomplishments, failures – it didn’t matter. I made myself find joy by writing everything down and adding it to the jar.

I did this so much that one day, I discovered I didn’t need the jar anymore. I’d made gratefulness a habit. Here’s what you’ll need to create your own jar of gratefulness:

  • A mason jar or similar vessel. If you’re fancy, you can spend your money at a craft store for a mason jar or you can be “from scratch crafty” (i.e., cheap/frugal) like me and use a clean spaghetti sauce jar.
  • Slips of paper, sticky notes, note cards.
  • A pen or markers.
  • Decorations {glitter, glue, ribbon, etc.)

Once your jar is suitably decorated:

  • Write your wishes/goals on strips of paper in pen (to signify permanence) as though they had already come to pass.
  • Be as specific as possible.
  • Don’t forget to offer thanks for things that have already happened, too. In addition to scraps of paper, my jar also held items like ticket stubs.
  • Don’t neglect your jar of gratefulness. Anytime you feel yourself slipping, force yourself into a state of gratitude by utilizing your jar.

Military life can be difficult. I don’t have to tell you that. And sometimes, amidst the PCS moves, job changes, unemployment and separation from family and friends, gratefulness is left behind. Making gratitude a deliberate and physical act can help us combat those feelings and develop habits that enable us to hold onto our resilience when thrown into doubt.

Jennifer Brantley is an attorney, motivational speaker, sister and friend married to a USAF chaplain. She uses her blog, More Than a Mrs., as a platform to encourage MilSpouses to engage in continued self-care and personal and professional development. She and her husband are currently overseas, basking in the travel opportunities that come with living in Europe.

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