A blog of gratitude

Early on in my parenting journey, between diaper changes and feedings, I found my way to the mama-blog sector of the world wide web. 

After reading a magazine article that highlighted a crafty, hobby-farming mama (Amanda Blake Soule) and her blog, I took to the Internet and found that — from behind a screen in my own little corner of the world in Northeastern Minnesota — I could peek into the life of a like-minded chicken-tending, crafty mama in Maine.

I was immediately encouraged and validated by what she shared on her blog — her writing, her photography and, in particular, her focus on family, joy and gratitude. 

A memory log

Inspired by Amanda, and a few other mama bloggers I’d come across, I started my own, private, password-protected family blog using the TypePad platform in 2008, when my oldest child was 3 years old. 

Since then I’ve made it a habit to preserve almost a decade of memories — of my experiences parenting my four children — with photographs and notes in the form of blog posts. 

When I need a positive boost or reminder of the happiest moments in my life, I look at the images. I smile, I laugh and yes, sometimes, I cry, reflecting on all the good in my life. 

These posts, essentially highlight reels of my day-to-day experiences, serve as reminders of all of the beauty in my life, especially on difficult days. 

Blogging, for me, has been a gratitude practice, in which I’ve made it a habit to share and reflect upon simple, yet extraordinary blessings. Looking back on my posts fills me with gratitude and evokes feelings of joy and love.

Going public

Over the past few years, I’ve also created a more public blog where I share snapshots and ramblings about my life from my perspective as a mom, educator, outdoor enthusiast and hobby farmer in the Northwoods.  

I hope readers find some sort inspiration and maybe family enrichment from my experiences.

So far, it’s been an amazing avenue of connection for me with people all over the world.

However, a word of caution: When you visit blogs or other social-media sites (especially Facebook and Instagram), be mindful of your thought processes. 

In a recent study, Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, researcher Mai-Ly Steers from the University of Houston remarked: “If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”

Focusing on the positive

Approaching what and how you post, or how you receive the posts of others with a focus on gratitude, however, can actually be good for you. 

According to experts at Harvard University, gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships. 

And making a practice of gratitude a habit is even better: In fact, a one-time act of thoughtful gratitude can produce an immediate 10 percent increase in happiness and a 35 percent reduction in depressive symptoms, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Such happy effects can disappear within three to six months, however, showing that practicing gratitude must be repeated again and again.

I know that blogging as a habit of gratitude has been a great practice for me. I encourage you to approach posting and viewing others’ posts with intention and with focus on the goodness that you see. It could be a prescription for happiness!  

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota.