One Austin woman shares with us how she marked the end of her forties with daily thankfulness posts–and what she learned in the process.
For years, I scoffed at those articles that referenced the scientific proof that “Gratitude makes you happier.” I was actually a pretty happy person already, and this idea seemed too simplistic to be so “life-changing.” Then Oprah got in on the action with her Gratitude Journal. As many women do, I find Oprah to be pretty persuasive. So, I bought two: one for my husband and one for me.
We wrote in them a grand total of five times. We were busy and tired and, again, not unhappy.
So, what was the point?
Fast forward two decades, three kids, and the death of one parent later. Life has thrown us a few curveballs and has accelerated to an even more frenzied pace. I still would not say that I am generally unhappy, but the death of my mother did inspire me to search for a deeper meaning to life. I began looking at various religious and spiritual beliefs and practices from around the world. I found that in almost every one of them, there is an emphasis on gratitude.
So, as my 49th birthday approached, I decided that I would mark the last year of my forties by posting on Facebook something for which I am grateful every day from my 49th birthday to my 50th. By making a public commitment, I knew I would feel obligated to stick to it. Several people asked me if I really thought I could think of something every day for 365 days. I replied confidently that I was sure it would be easy, but inside, I had a few doubts of my own.
Still, I began. As of this writing, I have posted 318 gratitude posts. Some days, my posts are filled with details and some days they are just a couple of lines. Regardless of the length, I have begun to make it a practice to take a few moments before I write to review my day and list the things that I appreciated that day.
Over time, I have come to several realizations:
Taking the time to think of a friend or family member and what that person brings to your life is a quick way to feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Plus, it deepens your relationship, because you are focusing on what you have received from them rather than what you need.
When you think you have had a really bad day, if you force yourself to sit down and think about the good that happened that day, you will be surprised at how many people you encountered or events that took place for which to be grateful. You ultimately end up realizing that your day was not that bad after all.
Gratitude really does become a habit. We all have our off days, but I have found that more and more frequently, I am looking around my world with eyes of gratitude. No matter how happy you think you are, your life will be dramatically improved with that small shift of focus.
Gratitude has helped me to let go of anger and frustration. I certainly still get angry and frustrated, but less frequently and it passes much more quickly.
Ultimately, I have found that the more you spend time with an attitude of gratitude, the more things for which to be grateful seem to appear. Maybe it is karmic, maybe it’s the Law of Attraction, maybe it is God rewarding you for focusing on the good, or maybe it’s just a simple shift in perception. Regardless of what it is or how you might define it, the bottom line is the same. Making the shift from what you need to what you appreciate may not change the world around you, but it changes the way you interact with that world.
And that makes all the difference. I am here to tell you it works, and I could not be more grateful.
Melinda Young lives in Austin with her husband and children.