A Day in a Life of Gratitude: An Exercise

At first, I thought it was silly.  I knew I had a great life and I didn’t think keeping a Gratitude Journal or having an “Attitude of Gratitude would make any difference.

So if you were thinking the same thing after reading my post last week, I don’t blame you.

I’d tried several times to start a Gratitude Journal, but that intimidating blank sheet of paper stared at up me every night. I couldn’t take the pressure. 😀

Usually I was too tired to think, couldn’t think of anything, or I felt like I was writing the same things over and over: health, family, husband, dogs, blah blah blah.

The big things are important, yes. But those little things that go unnoticed in your day really have Big Power to change your perception. Most of these moments end up as fleeting thoughts running through your head with everything else that day.

A common thread in every book I’ve read, whether it be Joel Osteen, Dr. Wayne Dyer or the Bible is that if you want more of the good things, you need to be grateful for everything you have now.

I find that I have greater success in any endeavor if I start by taking small steps forward, because we all know that progress, even slow, is still progress.

My first baby step was noticing these moments and acknowledging them with a simple “Thank you God!” (Of course you can modify this to fit your personal beliefs.)

To demonstrate the power of this exercise, I chose a random day to write down every Gratitude Moment as I experienced it in a small notebook I always carry in my purse.

As it happened I picked the perfect day: I was cranky.

I want to be very clear: you can STILL be cranky and grateful and positive at the same time. I do not enjoy being cranky, and certainly no one else in my family does either! 😉

The beauty of this whole exercise is that at some point you realize you have so many little things to be grateful for that you aren’t cranky anymore.

If you’re having a rough day or a difficult time, this exercise is even more important. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and forget there are good things that happen too.

So here’s what else happened that day:

  1. There was a beautiful, hushed quiet of falling snow outside in the darkness of 1 a.m. (I had a foster dog who needed to go out or I would have missed this moment of peacefulness!)
  2. My yard was a winter wonderland in the early morning daylight. The dusting of snow on everything including the trees was gorgeous.
  3. I love the way my Yoga class stretches my body, increases my flexibility and hushes my thoughts.
  4. The shop office had a cleanly swept floor and I appreciated my husband sweeping it for me.
  5. I parked in the very first non-handicapped parking space at Walmart!
  6. My lunch plate made an unexpected beautiful and colorful presentation.
  7. The excellence of a single piece of decadence in a single piece of dark, rich soft chocolate with mint.
  8. The heated towels of the body wrap softened my sore muscles and skilled hands of my massage therapist worked the kinks out. What a special treat!
  9. I noticed the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds on my way home. It was such a contrast to the clouds above it!
  10. I received great news after a routine medical test.
  11. It feels SO good to come home at the end of the day, turn on all the lights and light a good-smelling candle. And it was Friday!
  12. I didn’t have to go out in the cold anymore that day!
  13. My handmade pottery soup bowls I’ve collected over the last couple of years at a local arts fair looked so pretty holding a bowl of my husband’s homemade chili.
  14. It felt so good climbing into bed blissfully early into freshly laundered flannel sheets and a heated mattress pad.

As I read over this list, I don’t even remember that I began the day tired and crabby. I read this now thinking what a really awesome and blessed day it was. And it’s all because of a simple little gratitude exercise.

We all have a choice: we can choose to remember the challenges, or to look at and appreciate the special moments in our day that might be lost otherwise.

Give it a shot and see if it works for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Here’s How I Stay So Positive

Unless you’ve been living under a rock  you’ve learned that the world is a very negative place.

Between the news, social media and negative or critical people, it’s easy to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. That’s real encouragement to want to get up in the morning, eh? 😉

The great news is that most of us have the ability to make choices. Unless you have a medical issue or chemical imbalance, it IS possible to become a more positive person and become less influenced by the world around you.

I know this because I’ve done it. 

Like happiness, being positive is both a choice and a habit. Most of the times it comes pretty easy, although there are times I have to work harder at it. This summer I went through a dark period and I knew I needed something else.

That’s when I discovered Joel Osteen and his book, Every Day A Friday. As my friend Joe says, “He’s sort of a cross between a motivational speaker and a pastor.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If you’d like to feel better about your life every day, here are my proven strategies for maintaining a positive outlook and enjoying each day to the fullest.

  1. Tell yourself when you wake up that it’s going to be a great day. 
  2.  Start your day with something uplifting. Whether it’s cat videos on the internet or an inspiring, motivational book, spend your early morning hours with something that makes you feel good. One of my bucket list items is to read the Bible in its entirety, so I began reading it and a daily devotional each morning. If you have to, get up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else in your household. I love having my tea and the quiet of my living room to meditate and read. My morning routine gives my day a centered, peaceful feel and just kicks it off right.
  3. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude. Annoying frustrations happen to us all, every day, and it’s easy to focus on those things. Look for opportunities for gratitude in the small things that happen in your day. Were you blessed with a prime parking space? An unexpected treat? Did you miss having a fender bender? Lose a pet and find it again? Catch a great bargain on a long-desired item? This morning when I got my daily smoothie I noticed someone had stamped a motivational message on my $10 bill. How cool is that?! Those little things, all worthy of gratitude, add up and before you know it, you’re starting to watch for them!
  4. Minimize social media time. While I love the way social media allows me to keep up with long lost friends and family, there are aspects of it that I don’t love either. It can be a time-sucking habit. Unfollow, unfriend, delete, and block if you need to. We aren’t in second grade anymore and so what if you don’t get any gold stars? Ain’t nobody got time for that! Dirty laundry belongs in your hamper, not shared on social media. And speaking of sharing, make it a point to emphasize the good news minimize the bad. Sure, we all go through times we need extra encouragement. Don’t be Debbie Downer!
  5. Avoid or minimize exposure to toxic people. I know this is easier said than done if you work with or are related to “shine blockers”. We all have those folks in our lives who can bring on the buzzkill faster than it takes coffee to brew. My personal toxic favorite is the Smiling Digs, otherwise known as Negative Humor. Because we all know if they are smiling, they are just kidding, right?! (insert eye roll here) If you are related to a toxic person it’s more important than ever to avoid the ones you have a choice about and to build yourself up. Unless it’s constructive and your job depends upon it, ignore critical people; the problem is usually within them. You don’t have to be rude, but you don’t have to accept every invitation either.
  6. Reprogram negative thoughts. Delete those negative tapes in your head that criticize you or try to hold you back. Replace every negative thought with a positive one. Our brains like to trick us and make us believe things that aren’t true: no one will like that, no one wants to hear it, blah blah blah. Reprogram those thoughts! I promise you that if you make a conscious effort to reprogram, that inner voice will get quieter over time.
  7. Spend a little time alone every day. Some of us need more time than others, and I know it’s harder if you have the chaos of a busy family. Try to carve out 10 minutes to meditate, read, take a hot bath, or Just Be. And try to quiet your mind while you’re doing it. This is why I’ve found yoga so addictive…it quiets my mind while I’m stretching and strengthening my body.

And yeah, I’m still working on trying to quiet my mind. We’re all a work in progress, friends. 🙂