Be Grateful That’s It’s Monday
Gratitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I have been taking notice of things in my life to be grateful for. I’ve been doing this for at least 13 years now. The law of attraction work. The principle of target fixation works. Gratitude is cumulative and progressive. Just taking a few minutes a day to be grateful can provide relief from very difficult personal circumstances. A consistent attitude of gratitude can make all problems appear to be smaller.
I used to be poor. I used to worry about not having enough money for gas, for rent, for the things I wanted. I was lonely. I was sorry. I was broke. I was in debt. I was tired of being tired. I had a very negative attitude and I made lots of predictions about how bad things would go and I used those predictions as excuses not to take positive action for myself. I got lots of feedback on my attitude.
I got that feedback in meetings, at support groups, in therapy, from my family and from my friends. Instead of telling myself that those people had no idea what they were talking about, that they didn’t really know me, I began to listen. I began to at least try some of the things they suggested that I could do to be happier and even find peace in my mind.
One of the things they told me to do was to write a gratitude list every day, first thing in the morning. I didn’t see how this could work for me. I was miserable. I didn’t have what I wanted and I didn’t know how to get what I wanted. “If you’re miserable, whatever you’re doing isn’t working right now. You have nothing to lose by trying this out. If it doesn’t work, do something else.” That was the composite message I got from the people who suggested the gratitude list as a daily task for me.
13 years ago, I started writing that list every day, first thing in the morning on my computer. I never stopped writing that list. I found a way to write that list regardless of where I was in the morning. I just made sure to keep writing the gratitude list every day, not because I was sure that it would work. I dedicated the time to write a gratitude list to see if it would work. My mind was open and I wanted to know for sure if it would work. After 13 years of trying, I can tell you that this stuff really works.
The effects were small at first. I was not the happiest camper. I had been fired from a job just as the Great Recession started. I couldn’t afford rents in the places I wanted to live in California, so my wife suggested we move to Utah. We found a soft landing in the basement of a home of a distant relative. We stayed there for 6 weeks for we could only tolerate the crazy family living there for so long. I landed a job, then an apartment, and while we were living in that apartment, I started writing the gratitude list. My life has been improving ever since.
One of the first things I noticed is that I became more resilient to defeats and setbacks. I stopped using upsets as a predictor of future performance. When I experienced disappointments, I turned them into challenges, I turned them into problems to solve. I stopped using disappointments to predict the rest of my life.
Gratitude is about taking notice of things that I wanted, but that I already had. There is literally nothing to lose in writing a gratitude list because it’s only about things we already have, things that we already enjoy. Writing that list first thing every morning meant that I was already finding reasons to be happy and grateful for the day. That turns every other good thing that can happen in a day, into a bonus. Writing that gratitude list meant that I was already making a decision to be happy every day, first thing in the morning. Whatever happened later in the day could not take away from what I had already experienced in the morning.
By practicing gratitude in the morning, if something went south later that day, instead of experiencing a crisis, I experienced a minor setback. I could quickly remind myself of what I already had and focus on solving the problems at hand. I didn’t dwell on the mistakes or things that went wrong because I could always fall back on gratitude.
Gratitude is foundational. Gratitude is a habit that I practice to make a conscious choice to find something to be happy about every day. Once I figured out that I could make a choice to be happy about something, then I began to believe that I can make a choice about how to think and feel about anything else that happens to me. I can choose to turn a disappointment into a disaster, or I can choose to turn it into a challenge to overcome.
Gratitude as a habit practiced every day over many years is cumulative. Gratitude makes all disappointments temporary. Gratitude relieves all disappointments. Gratitude makes all problems appear to be smaller than they might have seemed otherwise. Gratitude builds resilience.
Resilience is the capacity to persevere regardless of setbacks and disappointments. Resilience is the capacity to keep working towards a goal regardless of the short term consequences of failure. Resilience says that all failures are temporary interruptions to success. Resilience is the defining character trait of every successful person you care to admire.
A long term consequence of gratitude and resilience is contentment. Contentment is what I feel when I know that everything I need or want is already here. Contentment is knowing that I have enough, knowing that my needs will be met, knowing that I can get my needs met and still keep the peace within me and without me.
I have also found that if I write a gratitude list in the morning, then my mind is open to finding other reasons to be grateful. I have been making a habit of noticing things that I’m grateful for throughout the day. I notice the air, the sun, the way the sunlight shines into my home, the peace in the morning, certain posessions that I enjoy, or even the way I feel inside. I can find something to be grateful for in any room in my home, while I’m running errands, while I’m helping my kids get to sleep at night, or while I’m at work.
Making a conscious effort to find something to be grateful for is mood altering. I am fascinated by the way that my mood is altered by making a decision to look at something around me and be grateful for it. This shift in mood is better than anything else I have ever used to change my mood. Better than cannabis, better than alcohol, better than sex, better than money. If I feel down, I can look at something in the room I am in now, and make a decision to be grateful for that thing, and I can use that process to change my mood from down to up. If I repeat this process over and over, I tend to get really happy. Gratitude is habit-forming but in a really nice way.
I have tried the other way and found it wanting. Gratitude is not a river of constant joy. It’s just a habit of noticing what I have and making a decision to be happy about that and to let everything else just roll. Gratitude reminds me that I already have enough for today. Gratitude tends to be a reliable predictor of future outcomes, in the same way that a pessimist can predict negative outcomes. Like pessimism, gratitude is self-fulfilling. We get to choose which path we want to take. I choose the path of gratitude.