Horace and Gratitude Diaries
When I first heard about gratitude diaries, I thought they sounded ridiculous. I considered keeping one some sort of self-brainwashing that would obscure a realistic assessment of one’s life.
I don’t think so anymore. Yes, a gratitude diary can aid self delusion. But anything can. The problem is the general one of self-delusion, not the diary.
In fact, I think the gratitude diary can aid debiasing. After all, most people do have much to be thankful for. And yet, we don’t concentrate on that. We concentrate on what needs fixing. We notice what needs work not what’s working.
This is as it should be for an animal: you want to notice problems. But you don’t want to forget the other stuff, the non-problems, when you have it easy.
Horace’s advice from The Odes, published in 23 B.C.E, seems dead on:
Get wise. Get wine, and one good filter for it.
Cut that high hope down to size, and pour it
into something fit for men. Think less
of more tomorrows, more of this
one second, endlessly unique: it’s
jealous, even as we speak, and it’s
about to split again…
(Translated by Heather McHugh.)