I’ve always been someone who has been grateful for what I have in life. A roof over my head, food on the table, loving family and and friends. But in 2018/2019 I went through a bit of a crappy time with a close friend. And I realised I had become quite negative in my thoughts and behaviours. In 2019, I made a decision that I wanted to ‘be happier’.
I’d read a few articles and posts from other bloggers about practising gratitude and how it made them feel more positive and grateful for the little things in their lives. Because I wanted to create a happier life for myself, I wondered if being consciously grateful would help me.
I looked at different ways of practising gratitude. Some people had a daily ritual where they would light a candle or incense and then verbalise what they felt grateful for that day. A ‘Gratitude Journal’ was another option, where you can write down what you are grateful for each day. Others had a ‘Gratitude Jar’ filled with colourful scraps of paper on which they wrote what they were grateful for. There felt like a lot of ways to practice gratitude, but I wanted something that I would stick to because I wanted to give this a really good shot. I was drawn to the idea of the Gratitude Journal because it would be something I could read back on, especially if I was ever having a bad day, or swimming in doubtful thoughts or generally feeling a bit low.
But I didn’t want another journal to take care of. I felt as if I already had a different book for different parts of my life and they were starting to overwhelm me. At the time, I had also started to consider using a Bullet Journal and came across a few examples where people had incorporated gratitude lists into their journals. So, I thought I’d add it into my Bullet Journal as this seemed to fit in with everything else I was doing and it felt like the best and easiest option for me.
Each day, at the end of the day, I wrote down three things that I was grateful for that day. At first I was finding it a bit difficult, because I felt as if I had to have really grand and important things to be grateful for. But as I went on, I started being grateful for smaller things in life. My bus turning up on time or early; meeting a friend unexpectedly whilst out and about; speaking to family members; laughing.
The longer I carried on with my list, the easier it became to find things to be grateful for. And it also made me feel more grateful for the really small things in life that we often take for granted, such as being able to go out for walks in the sunshine or having nice food to eat. The more I felt grateful for, the more positive I started to feel. And even when encountering negative situations, I seemed to be able to find a positive outlook to them. It felt as if consciously choosing to be grateful also led me to have more positive thoughts and behaviour.
But, it also showed me something else, that I didn’t expect. Just how negative people could be. I started to wonder whether the more positive you become or choose to live your life, the more you can see the negative thinking and behaviour in others? And I also wondered how we could deal with that? It takes a very strong willed person not to be somewhat influenced by those around them. And when you are taking the first steps to a more positive life, it isn’t always easy to stop being drawn back into the negative thinking or behaviours.
It’s been nearly two years now since I started my gratitude practice. I still write down 3 things that I’m grateful for each day, whether I do it in the morning or the evening. Starting a gratitude practice made me more aware of being around people who seemed to have a more negative or toxic attitude. It has led me to feel more compassionate and non-judgemental of others. Not everyone is aware they are being negative because it is something that becomes a habit over time. And when it is a group of people together who think or act the same way or are encouraged by each other’s behaviour or thinking, it almost becomes ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my slip ups, but I quickly realise what I’m doing set myself straight. I’m learning every day and making progress towards a more positive life. Practicing gratitude is just one part of that.
A shorter version of this blog appeared on www.thelemonadelife.me in 2020 and is no longer available