I mentioned in my last blog post about Gratitude that I have been so amazed and inspired by my friend Kali’s gratitude postings on facebook. She has committed to posting a statement of gratitude on facebook for 365 days! Today she shares what led her to make this commitment and how it is already changing her life.
As a young girl, I found it difficult to ever say or think anything nice about myself. I remember having meltdowns at home after school, crying to my mother because I was overwhelmed, didn’t have any friends, I was flat-chested, and on and on and on; and my mother used to say to me, “honey, tell me ONE thing you like about yourself – just one.” I would sit there frustrated, staring down into my lap with hot tears stinging my eyes, for what seemed like hours, completely overwhelmed by the thought of having to say, out loud, something I liked about myself. What was there to say?! All I could hear in my head was everything I hated. Finally, I would answer with something easy and superficial like, “I like my eyelashes.” I’m sure my mother chuckled inside at my response because in her mind there wasn’t a single thing about me not worth loving. But I definitely couldn’t see those things.
As I grew older, I began observing the constant stream of negative thoughts running through my head each day. It concerned me. Sure, I attributed those nasty thoughts to terrifying experiences from an abusive father, being raised in a broken home, the stress and unintentional neglect from being raised by a hard-working single mother, etc etc; but, the reality was there were many other people in the world who had experienced far worse in life than I did, and they never let it break their spirit or their persistently positive outlook. Why couldn’t I be like them? What was wrong with me?
I realize I’m making myself sound like some horribly negative, depressed, mistreated person, which I am not. In all honesty, I doubt most people would’ve described me as a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy because I did experience and show happiness and contentment. However, the negative outlook that was growing in my head was consistently discouraging me. So, I read lots of books on positive psychology, spirituality, traits of successful people – hoping they would give me a guide to changing my thoughts and seeing myself and my life differently. Boy, what a letdown. I ended up feeling worse and eventually like I failed because I was still experiencing negativity.
A few months ago my friend shared an article on facebook that shocked and inspired me. It was about a woman in a very bad place in life (alcoholic, bad relationships, no job, etc) who decided to write down one thing she was grateful for every day. She shared that her consistent gratefulness exercise helped lead her to a completely new and happy life. She stopped drinking, was in a loving relationship, got a great job and so on and so forth. Focusing on what she was grateful for, rather than what she lacked, truly changed her life. I LOVED that! So my friend and I decided to be gratitude partners on facebook, and we committed to posting one thing we are grateful for every day for 365 days. Let me tell you, I was a little overwhelmed by that idea at first; but I was incredibly eager to try a daily practice that could help me focus on the positive things in life rather than the negative. Think about it. How many people on facebook post about genuinely positive experiences or something for which they are grateful? Not that many. And, even if some people do, their complaints or negative opinion posts far exceed their expressions of happiness, love, or gratitude.
I’ve been posting my Grateful Yelp every day and I’m now up to number 103! About a third of the way to my goal of 365. I can tell you that this simple daily practice has already begun to change my life. No, I’m not saying that I got a new car, a bigger house, more money, and that life is just a breeze. I’m saying it has changed my inner life. Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out…after the very first day of posting my Grateful Yelp, I found myself thinking, “what am I going to post today that I am grateful for?” I started LOOKING FOR the good things in my life and the good things that happened each day. This practice started changing my brain’s perspective. Even if something seemingly bad happened during the day, I couldn’t focus on it all day long because I had to post something about gratitude that evening on facebook . So, I’d move right past the “bad experience” and keep living my day, looking for what I was going to post as my Grateful Yelp. This practice shifted the perspective in my brain towards the positive, and it created greater resiliency in me.
1. the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2. ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.
A positive outlook on life and resiliency. These are the two main qualities my Gratitude Yelp practice has given me so far. You know what? These are exactly the same two qualities that I have admired in people who have gone through major trials in life but never let them beat them down or break their spirit. People like Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus, the Buddha, Mother Theresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other less well-known people around the world. I wonder if they acknowledged their gratitude every day. My guess would be yes.
Below is quote from the Bible- it has an entirely different meaning to me now than it did years ago, or even four months ago. My mother would encourage me with these words when I was growing up, and I encourage you with them today:
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Focus on these things every day and write them down if that helps you – on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, in a journal, on a whiteboard – whatever creates accountability for you…and then observe how your world (inner and outer) changes.
Thank you for letting me share my ramblings, and giving me an opportunity to overcome my fear of writing, and others reading my writing. I would love to hear your thoughts and what you are grateful for today so please share!
Today, I am grateful to be grateful.