Conversations echo around the big lunch room. Well-dressed people sit at tables eating and chatting.
"You would not believe how slow my computer is running today."
"My co-worker is driving me nuts! She can't stop talking."
"I can't believe my husband expects me to make dinner every single night. He never helps out with the kids!"
"Oh my gosh, guys, the heater in my car stopped working. In November! It couldn't have been worse timing."
While some may be legitimate and some may not, the focus is overwhelmingly negative. It's become the American default.
Not only is focusing on our problems or annoyances making us unhappy, but it's affecting everyone around us. It's hurting our emotions, our health and our relationships. Friends, it is high time that we make it a priority to focus on the positive. To reprogram our brains. To learn how be thankful.
It's no secret that gratitude is incredibly beneficial. There’s been countless tests done that prove how it positively affects people’s emotional and physical health. Quite simply, gratitude changes your life.
There are three basic kinds of gratitude (at least how I see it). The first is finding the good in a bad situation. Instead of thinking and talking about how hard or how frustrating or how painful an experience is, what if we instead thought about all the people that have shown their support for us in this time? Or made a point to focus on how we're growing through this?
The second kind is noticing little joys. You know, those small pleasures like having your favorite cereal or spending time with your toddler niece or watching the autumn leaves dancing along in the street. Notice them, and say "thank you" for those beautiful little delights.
The third is, for me, the most difficult. It’s appreciating the most basic things in life, like a home, a job that’s draining, or the legs that carry you through the day. These are the things it is so easy to take for granted - or even to complain about. Your house is cold and cramped -- but you have house. Your job is draining and low-paying -- but you have a job. Your back hurts and your feet are tired - but they were able to carry yourself through the day.
I put in contacts every day. Without them, life would be incredibly difficult. I wouldn't be able to drive, work, cook... I wouldn’t even be able to go for a walk without tripping over something. Yet I can’t think of more than a handful of times that I’ve put my contacts in and thought, "Wow, how amazing is it that I can see!"
It isn't easy to spot these things, especially when we experience them every day. In fact that's why so many people lack gratitude: it doesn't come naturally. You have to purpose to do it.
So I am proposing a challenge. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to write down 3 things each night* that I was grateful for that day. I'm using a physical notebook, because it's really neat to tangibly look back and see what you've written. See, I've started one of these before. When I read the wonderful book "One Thousand Gifts," I was inspired to start a notebook of things I was thankful for. I've only gotten to 197 (not even close to 1,000) so I'm continuing my thankful journey in it as I start it up again tomorrow.
Hopefully I won't be alone. I strongly encourage you to take up the challenge. It will take you a mere five or ten minutes, and I promise the rewards you will glean are more than worth it! Find that journal your aunt bought you for Christmas and open it up with me. Let’s relearn the lost art of gratitude together.
Please leave a comment if you are joining me (making it public will help you to follow through!) Let's watch and see how gratitude changes our lives for the better.
*It's also a good habit to practice gratefulness in the morning, because it sets the mood for the whole day. But for this challenge, the evening works best because it will help us to be on the lookout all day for things to put in our gratitude journal at night.