Having a practice of gratitude is a great way to have a positive done list, and is also associated with generally good emotions and mood (et al., passim).
Gratitude only works when it’s genuine, and not all of these suggested gratitude prompts will be relevant to you, But some of them might be, or they might spark an idea to help you write your own.
I’ve just finished a book, and my co-author and I had fun thinking about who we would like to thank in the Acknowledgements section, and you will need to do the same at some point. But you might also want to make a less formal, less constrained, more honest version!
Here is my gratitude list. It includes some things that have been published in Acknowledgement sections and quite a few that haven’t!
These are things I’m grateful for, now and as a research degree student.
I am grateful for:
A supervisor who got what I was trying to say, and gave me tools to say it more clearly.
Co-authors who get what I’m trying to say, and give me space to work out how to say it well.
Editors who get what I’m trying to say, and fix my work so it actually says it.
Peer reviewers who don’t get what I’m trying to say, and give me feedback so I know what’s not communicating.
Students who tell me that what I say changes their lives.
Computers, who take the work of spellchecking, footnoting, sharing and saving my work and make it instant and invisible.
Computer catalogues! So much better than the old paper catalogues for 99% of searches. I love you all, but maybe WorldCat the most.
Librarians, who put relevant books together on shelves so when I go to pick up one book for my research, I find another dozen nearby.
Archivists who spent months digitising material so when I need it, it’s there in seconds.
Wikipedia editors who summarise a topic and point me to the most relevant information.
Colleagues who are delighted to grab a coffee on campus as soon as the cafés are open again.
Scholarships, prizes, and grants that offered me the chance to study, travel, buy books and just live.
Other scholars with generous footnotes that explain a new field to me, and publishers who make space for generous footnotes.
Shut Up and Write buddies over the years who helped me get some writing done when the writing was hard to get to.
The members of my reading groups and SIGs who keep me up to date in the field.
My beautiful walnut desk and the view of leaves and sky outside my study window.
The non-human writing companions (particularly the black cats) who have only interrupted my work in ways that provoked creativity.
Coffee, and herbal tea, and nice water, which help me getting into the writing zone.
Heating and cooling and windows that open, so I write in comfort more often.
The people who write and perform and record the amazing music that gets me in a writing mood every time.
Everyone who ever posted a video explainer about how to move and stretch after I’ve spent too many hours at my desk.
The people who buy, read or review my books and blog, who inspire me to keep going.
Students who ask searching questions, admit their writing challenges, and come up with innovative solutions, who make me a better teacher.
I am grateful for so many other things, but this is a first list.
A gratitude list doesn’t mean you don’t have aspects of the research degree that are difficult or horrible. But human brains are better at noticing problems (it helps us solve them), and the problems around us are obvious. A gratitude list just helps you make the good stuff equally obvious.
To be clear, I have also sat down to write a gratitude list in the past and found it consisted of something like ‘I have a job, for now’ and ‘I work with some great people, who are leaving soon’. That has led to me realising I needed to radically change my life. If that’s you, there’s lots on this blog, and others, to give you advice.
A PhD is a wonderful opportunity to be granted the space and permission to take a few years to learn, think and focus on an area you are deeply interested in. Research degrees are often personalised, exploratory and financially supported. (In Australia, you don’t pay fees for a research degree! You get a supervisor just for your project! You get to answer questions you are seriously curious about! Wow!)
I hope your research gratitude list is full and overflowing. And if it’s not, maybe it’s time to see what you can do to make things better and more joyful. There are lots of horrible jobs in the world, research degree student is not supposed to be one of them. (It will still be hard though!)