My Gratitude Project
I hope that you all had a safe + fabulous holiday weekend!
I am so grateful for a week of beautiful weather at the beach, surrounded by my family, celebrating our freedoms + opportunities that our country provides, & simply just relaxing.
With such a busy schedule during the school year, I rarely have time to just sit & read. This summer I have been using my free time as an opportunity to grow my mind + dive into books that I’ve been interested in reading. I somehow found myself reading what some might cynically call “self-help” books; although, I prefer to consider them as personal development.
I will be the first to admit that reading a personal development book won’t magically organize your office space that you’ve been avoiding or permanently change your life. There is no straight forward + easy path towards achieving ultimate happiness & well-being. If there were, I am sure that you would’ve heard of it by now… we all would have. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it. It takes work. It’s a process of practice & growth.
I’ve also found that everything that I read isn’t directed towards me. Instead, I’ve read a wide range of books & I take bits + pieces that apply to my life. I find things certain things that I want to focus on now, some things that may be addressed in the future, & other things that may not apply to me at all.
However, if there is one thing that we each desire to achieve + one thing that I personally wish to have throughout my entire life is happiness & gratitude. Gratitude for those around me (my friends, family, coworkers, educators, strangers that simply smile as they pass), for nature, memories, material goods, for the big things in life + the little things alike, you name it… There are SO many things to be grateful for. The list is endless. No matter your current social or financial situation, your career, your health + well-being, you should be grateful for far more than you would ever imagine.
A couple of years ago, my family & I took on a challenge to write down one thing every single day that we are grateful for. Surely, we could each find just one thing. It forced us to focus on the little things that we are grateful for, even during times when it felt as though nothing was going our way. It was a task that truly changed the way that I looked at the world. Because no matter the hardship that comes our way, how fortunate we are to live in such an amazing country, to be surrounded by amazing people, to have known someone who has passed, to have the means to pay our rent, whatever it may be… there is something that we should be grateful for.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” –Dr. Seuss
When I saw Janice Kaplan’s “The Gratitude Diaries”, I decided to pick it up + give it a shot. It seemed to fall in line with the way that I have been trying to live my life. Kaplan reflects on how she spent a year living gratefully & how it transformed her marriage, family life, work, health + every day experiences.
While reading, I started to be more intentional in finding gratitude for my surroundings & moments throughout the day. I started to realize just how fortunate I am, despite times where I may feel as though all odd’s are against me. Something as simple as, “Wow, I am so grateful to have time to just sit and read.” Or I could even go further, “I am grateful to have my eye sight. To have the sun beating on my skin, to live in the beautiful south, to feel the gentle breeze.”
Even more so, I began to take note of just how ungrateful people are. Our day’s are filled with (our own + those around us) complaints, worries, stresses. When those around us express their discontent, we often times fall prey to their bait. While positivity is contagious, negativity can have the same effect. As Kaplan stated, we have a genetically programmed theory of survival to focus on whatever is bad or threatening. For example, we are more likely to focus & share with others the poisonous berry bush, rather than the 10 others that are delicious. Or at the end of the day, the person that cut us off in traffic may be the spotlight of our day, rather than the 3 individuals that took the extra time to hold the door for you.
But luckily, whatever the brain does a lot, we get good at. Surely, it’s not an easy task but with practice & intention, finding little things to be grateful for throughout your day becomes easier & easier. Each + every day is filled with both good & bad things. It’s a way of life. But we have the opportunity to focus on the good, rather than the bad… Which is just the opposite of how many of us live our lives today. A simple task, such as a gratitude journal can force us to note something that we are grateful for. Maybe you start out by writing one thing for each day, but you then you find your brain transforming to look at things in a more positive light, with more appreciation. Over time, you may only use the journal three times a week, maybe eventually only once.
It’s no easy task, but by holding yourself accountable, you can completely alter your outlook on life. Start by setting a “no complaining zone”, where any complaint that you hear, you respond with a positive point of view. Surely you can find one positive in any situation. We commonly compare ourselves to our neighbors + coworkers, those which we feel most competitive with, rather than looking at the bigger picture & realizing just how grateful we should be.
“Act on what’s in your control – Ignore what isn’t.” –Marcus Aurelius
Fortunately, through Kaplan’s personal journey, combined with research, she found that increased gratitude can improve many aspects of your wellbeing simultaneously. The Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology found that gratitude may have the highest connection to mental health + happiness of any personality trait studied.
Your attitude won’t always improve the situation, but it can make your experience better. In turn, it will increase your personal happiness & that is the most important thing. Over time, it will start to come more naturally. We have the option to look up at what’s missing & feel defeated or we can look down at others who achieved less & feel victorious.
“Trade expectation for appreciation & the world instantly changes.” – Tony Tobbins
I challenge you to join me on my own Gratitude Project. Whether you keep a mental journal or a daily list of things that you are grateful for, hold yourself accountable. Start by finding one, just one thing, that you are grateful for each day. Express your gratitude by telling your family + friends how grateful you are for them. Record changes in your attitude, journal your journey towards a life of gratitude, whatever it may be.
Share one thing that you are grateful for or your personal experience with gratitude below!