“Oh, mirror, mirror, on my wall, what ever can I do,
(Without the use of money, drugs, alcohol) to lift my spirits, what say you?”
My mirror’s answer:
“Yes my dear, I hear you.
It’s all about your attitude.
Let me tell you what to do,
Practice proactive gratitude.”
Key word here: Proactive
So I started a little experiment that ended up lasting three weeks. An experiment of making big efforts to feel and express heartfelt gratitude. I was curious if there truly were some magical powers hidden behind the energy of gratitude in the universe. You know, you read and hear about it all the time. How other people are experiencing amazing abundance by simply being grateful. Personally, I wanted to see if I would feel like Amelie in “Amelie.” You know, how she just loves that feeling of doing good and helping others so much so that she keeps doing it? Oui. That.
Here’s what I call Project GR-ATTITUDE:
I wrote about people.
After writing as much as I wanted, I’d summarize my thoughts and feelings with a mantra. I’d repeat it three times and close my eyes. This was the last thing I did before bed.
As soon as I’d wake up in the morning, I’d smile, say my mantra from the night before and then lightly stretch my body before my toes hit the floor. Yes, all before I physically got out of bed.
Week Deux: Thank You Notes I started writing one note, one night, to one person. The next night, I wrote two. And the next night, three. You get it. I wrote it until the last night I wrote five cards. I wrote them to my dad, my step-dad, my friends at work, my best friend’s parents. No rhyme or reason. I just wrote to whomever I felt thankful for in my heart and felt like expressing it.
Week Trois: Back to Journaling x2 I revisited the evening journal entry activity but I also added a morning journaling ritual. Before starting anything cerebral I’d write about my gratitude, thinking about the day before as well as the daily tasks ahead of me. I’d write after really mindfully thinking. When I took the time to think, I felt. And this feeling was of happiness, excitement, and even a little pride.
I noticed an overall feeling of content and happiness. I was mindful of my actions, mindful of others, and I didnt’ sweat the small stuff. And when I did, I caught myself and politely self-excused my behavior. So cute, right? I gave myself permission to make a mistake and authentically self-correct.
Some people called to tell me they received the cards I wrote, and that was so unexpected. I wrote the cards for myself -not for reactions- and that’s kind of selfish, when you think of it, right? Nonetheless, this gratitude-back-atcha was just, well, totally unexpectedly heartwarming. I struggle to find the right words to describe my true feelings and these are the best I can find: that feeling you feel from a sunny, warm glow.
My closest relationships improved. Don’t get me wrong…I didn’t’ see this happening whilst in it. BUT now, weeks later, I am feeling that my daughter, my boyfriend and I have more fun, laughter, and clearer communication. And FYI for you scientist-types, they did not partake in this experimental project with me.
The one single common denominator in every action of gratitude: It feels good.
So if you’re not totally convinced that it’s something you should get in to…just know that you should. It is life-changing. It’s a cure-all. It really is all that.
Gratitude Will Busta-Mood Seriously. Whether you’re feeling strangled by demands, depressed or unworthy, unsure, overwhelmed, misunderstood, angry, or whatever it is, writing out gratitude on paper is the best anti-everything-bad remedy you can find. And when you think about it, there’s a reason most religions and many cultures integrate gratitude into daily practice. It brings out good. It provides a focus on the right things. It releases dopamine. So duh.
Gratitude Will Improve Your Relationships It puts you in a better mood so you’re a better person to be around. You’re less likely to sweat the small stuff. You’re more inclined to appreciate the bigger picture. You’re just more chill. You’re just more fun.
Gratitude Will Give You Momentum Once you begin to be grateful on the regular, you won’t stop. The good energy you put out is somehow returned to you and unless you’re a glutton for punishment, you will like this good energy feeling recycled. You will not want it to stop, so you’ll keep doing it. You may even become addicted to it, and I think that’s ok. And this feeling of good is quite empowering, which may even help you be more productive.
Gratitude Will Improve Your Health Truly. You’ll sleep better. You’ll be more content. You’ll be more patient. You’ll be less stressed. You’ll harbor less anger. You’ll be more confident. Your immune system will be stronger. You’ll truly be a better version of you.
If You Don’t Know Where to Begin Get a pen, paper and a quiet 5-10 minutes to yourself. Write about a person you’re grateful for. Write about someone you’ve not seen in a while, but who always inspires and motivates you when you think about them. Or write about an inspirational teacher from elementary school days. Or write about a stranger who paid your toll in the car in front of you. It doesn’t have to be an essay. It can be just a few lines. Go with the feels and just write it out:
Write about people you appreciate.
This will make you feel warm, bring a smile to your face; you’ll feel happy.
Feelings of happiness come from dopamine.
Dopamine motivates you.
First some perspective: I’ve considered myself a very non-structured, go-with-the-flow kind of spirit. I have never been fond of routines or making plans unless they involved beauty products or socializing. Structure and routine have been like rules, like a punishment, like a mundane, slow-death torture. And as you can guess, I was force-fed rules as a kid, sense my unstructured life rebellion. Who can relate?!
But my Project GR-ATTITUDE, the attitude of gratitude, is definitely the best beauty routine I’ll not give up. I’ve had some really big breaks and breakthroughs over the past weeks, and I’d like to think it’s because of a simple addition to my regular life routine. I am more excited than ever about accomplishing goals and I’m motivated to keep moving. It’s like gratitude is my new-found turbo boost, energy drink, afternoon double espresso, (you fill in the blank).
Just try it. I promise you’ll not regret it. If you do, let me know. I’ll write about it. I’ll change my life. Yeah, I’ll go back to my non-hybrid and meat-eating life. If you don’t think gratitude is all that, comment below or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Merci et bisous!
Today is February 28, 2018. I originally wrote this essay at the very end of January. I whipped it out in no time, which is somewhat unusual for me because usually I edit and re-edit. I was super excited to share it, but suddenly, our seemingly healthy and vivacious dog died and life turned upside down. And apparently this got lost in the rubble.
During my time of pain and grief, barely functioning because of the shock and disbelief, I realized that proactively mindfully practicing gratitude was the way to soothe my soul. I was grateful that I had just gone through my timely self-experiment. It made me ever more grateful for the time and love I shared with this furry, beautiful soul.
It seems like such common sense, but truly, journaling, and even meditating gratitude and love heals.
Take gratitude seriously. Take love seriously. Take the time. Make the time. Daily. They are one in the same. This is how life flourishes and grows.