New Years is a time when people start to think about the ways they can make their lives better. People make resolutions to lose weight, eat better, learn a new language, or save money – all of which I really need to do too. But last year, I made a resolution that I actually kept, a resolution that changed my life.
My resolution was to write 3 things I am grateful for every day. I have heard about this practice before and just thought it sounded fun. The first day I wrote it, I think I wrote something like: 1) My kids 2) My kids’ health and 3) Being born in the first world. Boom. Done. Easy Peasy. But my idea was that I was not going to repeat and I was going to start trying to find more current things – like things that happened that same day.
That’s when it started getting a little more difficult. I had to think. I had to put more effort into it. So I would sit quietly and stare at my page, trying to pinpoint a unique moment. In order not to repeat, I managed to get very specific sometimes. So some of my grateful lists included things like:
- the way my son moves my hair out of my face so lovingly
- letting my daughter stay up 5 extra minutes so we could have a good conversation
- the way oolong tea leaves start so shriveled and dry, but expand into big beautiful leaves
- the way the sun felt on my back as I was walking to the mail box
- and so on and so on
Making these lists has changed my life – or rather, it has changed my perception of life. It draws your attention to those otherwise fleeting moments. It is amazing how often these moments occur when you are looking for them. My brain has become trained to search for them. Even when bad things happen, my brain just automatically begins searching for things I can hold on to. Things like “I’m grateful that at least we are in this together,” or “I am grateful that at least I am here and capable of helping.”
It has changed my demeanor and attitude toward life entirely. I am able to wake up with a smile on my face and a positive outlook. (It helps that I this is usually the last thing I do before I go to bed.) When problems do arise, as they always do, I am able to approach them more rationally and logically. The negative emotions and extreme fight or flight reactions no longer take over. They don’t have that kind of control over me any more.
Life seems to work out so much better when you approach it with a grateful and optimistic attitude. Try it! What 3 things are you grateful for today?
Disclaimer: I have been accused by couple people of picking and choosing things to be grateful for when I “should be grateful for every part of life.” This exercise is not about “picking and choosing,” it’s about forcing yourself to find the positive. It’s easy to say oh I’m grateful I woke or grateful for another day, but trying to pick moments is a lot more challenging. It really retrains your brain to focus on the silver linings.