gratitude experiment

Emptying the Gratitude Jar

My family and I just celebrated the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and this is exactly when we began using our Gratitude Jar last year. I’ve posted about the Gratitude Jar before so forgive me while I fill in those who are unfamiliar with the concept. gratitude jar

I simply placed a large mason jar on my kitchen counter, put a Post It note on the side and wrote “Gratitude Jar” on it (okay, so creativity may not be my strong suit). I then put the rest of the pile of Post It’s on top with a pen. I told my family that we were going to try an experiment – that the Jar would rest on our counter for the next year and that we all were to “capture” positive moments or thoughts, write them down and place them inside.  We could write down ANYTHING we were grateful for, no matter how big or small. There was no “right,” or more importantly “wrong” way to do this. I explained that it would be fun, and that it would help us to tune in to things that were going well, rather than focus our energy on that which wasn’t.

Everyone agreed to participate. I even sent my daughter off to college with her own Gratitude Jar.

Here’s what unfolded over the course of the year:

The jar filled up. That’s what I could SEE, but so much more took place. Because of the experiment, I attempted to stay focused on things I could be grateful for, even when it seemed like there wasn’t much at the time. If I was having a blue day, I’d be reminded when I walked by the jar that I had much to be thankful for, despite being at a loss for the specifics in that moment. The sound of the jar had an effect – I would open the jar to place a note inside and my son would yell from the other room that he heard me, and I could hear the smile in his voice.

Gratitude and good feelings have a way of spreading.

If too much time passed without my putting a note in the jar, I’d know to check in with myself. Where was my head? I probably needed to shift back to positivity….and I would challenge myself to find something to write about, and could always find SOMETHING. It would undoubtedly put me on a better path.

Sometimes people would be visiting and they’d ask what the Jar was for. Not only was it a conversation piece but it was always in those moments of explaining that I recommitted to utilizing the Jar. Some guests were so excited by the idea that they contributed then and there.

Here’s what took place last week:

My family and I had decided that we would empty the Jar on Rosh Hashanah and share our captured moments. We dumped the notes out and took turns taking a note from the pile randomly and reading aloud. Words won’t serve to describe what that experience was like for me.

My daughter remembered to bring home the beautiful notes she had written over the course of the year (without being reminded). My husband, who I hadn’t realized was participating regularly (he had been recording his gratitude on his work computer), wrote notes that surprised me and served to bring us closer. My sons’ notes ranged from being thankful for food to eat to being grateful for good health and amazing accomplishments.

There were “stealth” notes too – comments that people outside of our immediate family deposited while we weren’t looking. We had so much fun discovering them!

Themes emerged – we found that we often mirrored back to each other the things we appreciated most in one another.

We laughed as we remembered things we had done. We got emotional as we remembered how we felt. We connected. We reoriented ourselves to one another and recommitted to the things that are important to us. We all squeezed each other afterward and talked about how special, successful, and gratifying our experiment had been.

Then my youngest son took a Sharpie and wrote “Year 2” under the “Gratitude Jar” Post It on our empty jar. And when I looked at it that night before I went up to bed, there were several notes in it already waiting to be read next year.

Warmest Regards, Laurie


Laurie Leinwand is a Professional Life Coach assisting clients with a variety of personal and professional life issues. Ideas 2 Action Life Coaching encompasses Laurie’s work as a life coach for women and men, career life coach and work-life balance coach.

Some of the topics of focus in her practice as a professional life coach are assisting and supporting individuals that are stay at home parents (stay at home moms and dads are constantly forced to adapt to their current circumstances as their children grow and change) as well as those returning to work. Laurie works with people reentering the workforce who are unsure of their direction and interested in cultivating professional development skills and support.

Laurie also provides personal development assistance with regard to powerful issues such as how to make a change in your life and finding fulfillment and your life purpose. In addition, she works with clients interested in learning how to say no and setting boundaries.

Ideas 2 Action Life Coaching is located in Randolph, NJ and services the surrounding communities of Morristown, Denville, Parsippany, Florham Park and Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, though much of her coaching is done on the phone and is accessible to clients worldwide.  Laurie is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the New Jersey Professional Coaches Association (ICF-NJ).

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