Life is beautiful, if you let yourself see it.
The first time I was introduced to the idea of a gratitude journal was years ago, when Oprah was interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow. It was long before Gwyneth’s GOOP days; I think she’d just broken up with Brad Pitt, or maybe Ben Affleck. It was the middle of the afternoon, and I was wearing pajamas and eating a frozen cheesecake. I may have been a tiny bit depressed.
I remember Oprah and Gwyneth laughing together, looking radiant and giggling about the silly things they wrote down in their gratitude journals – which they kept next to their beds and wrote in every night, naturally. One day, Gwyneth had written that she was grateful for someone’s freckles. How lovely! How whimsical! I turned off the TV, fired up a cigarette and wept bitterly into my pillow for the rest of the night.
The next day, inspired by Oprah and Gwyneth, I dragged myself out of the house and bought a little notebook in which to record the things for which I was grateful. And although I can’t remember what I wrote, I do remember that it helped pull me out of my funk.
Ever since then, I’ve tried to actively notice things I’m thankful for every day. I don’t always manage to write them down, but maintaining that mindset – keeping an eye out for positive moments – stops me from sinking too far into the muck of my psyche. (And Gwyneth was on to something – I’ve been grateful for people’s freckles more than once.)
Almost 20 years after my dark college days, I like to think I’ve become the kind of person who is usually pretty upbeat. I look on the bright side, I smile at strangers, I sing while I walk down the street, I’m one of those annoying people who uses the #blessed hashtag without irony.
So when I realized I’d become cross and snappish lately, I figured it was time to take up writing in my gratitude journal again. Yes, life these days has been a little trying, but there are always things to be thankful for. I hoped forcing myself to write them down every day would improve my attitude, and everything else would improve from there. Here are a few of the things I was grateful for recently:
- When I went to the bank to get some forms notarized and they told me their notary was out sick, a man jumped out of the line, superhero-style, told me he was a notary, whipped out his seal and notarized all my documents for me, refusing to accept any payment. He was cute too.
- I was walking down the street early one morning and saw a sanitation worker hop off the back of his truck, go over to a homeless man sleeping on the street and ask him what he wanted for breakfast. Then he shouted to his partner to go buy two cups of coffee and a bagel. Faith in humanity restored.
- The cashier at my local supermarket told me to “embrace the mystery” when I told him I was feeling a little unsure about where my life was going. Groceries and life advice, all in one place.
- I threw a party in my new apartment, and even though I didn’t even have any chairs for people to sit in, my friends came anyway, bearing food and drinks and laughter and love.
- My daughter’s hugs, my boyfriend’s dimples, my best friend’s loyalty and patience.
- A thunderstorm that came out of nowhere and made everyone stop whatever they were doing for a few minutes so they could stare at the sky with wonder.
What’s that saying: ‘Focus on what you want more of’? I think that’s the idea. Writing about things gives them weight. So instead of writing down all my angry thoughts and gripes against the world, I’m going to rededicate myself to recording the things I want more of in my life. I’m going to start noticing freckles again. Who’s with me?
GIF via giphy.com.
Comment: Step outside with a positive mindset today and tell us all the precious things you noticed.
Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.