Hey folks, a bit of an unusual post for a Friday.
Tomorrow, September 21, is World Gratitude Day.
Gratitude is one of those things that are utterly vital to our emotional health and happiness but entirely easy to miss in the midst of a thousand other concerns, responsibilities, stresses.
Remembering to say thank you and to appreciate the good people and things in your life is a bit like remembering to drink enough water. We know we should. Countless studies show that it’s important. But we forget and then feel awful later on and have no idea why.
In a world that continually trains us to view everything valuable as being scarce — whether it’s material resources or human connections — so that we’ll rush out to buy things to allay mounting fears, gratitude is one of the few tools that we have to combat it.
Here are a few exercises that you can do that will help (incidentally, they’ve also been shown to build up compersion — a feeling of happiness when other people have happy things happen to them): Practicing random acts of kindness and gratitude journaling.
Practicing Random Acts of Kindness
Paying it forward to other people is amazing. First, it just feels good, not only for them but for you. Set a goal of doing an act of kindness as often as you can manage it. Once a week was realistic for me. Some may be able to manage more, others less. The more often the better, but the key is consistency and developing the habit.
These do not have to be grand gestures.
For maximum effect, change up the kind act and who you are doing it for each time.
And most importantly — do NOT tell anyone you’ve done it. This is because we tend to ruminate and remember things that we haven’t told anybody about longer than those we have, because a task that’s completed is one we forget more easily (see: the Zeignarik effect). So if you keep your acts of kindness a secret, you are more likely to think of them over and over and get more mileage out of them.
Randomactsofkindness.org has an exhaustive database of ideas to get you started.
Part of getting away from fear is really appreciating the present reality of what we have. One way to do this is to keep a gratitude journal.
At the same time each day, write 5 things you are grateful for. Be specific and detailed as possible about them. Elaborate. Don’t just write “I’m grateful for the people I love.” Write something more like “I’m grateful that my boyfriend brought me lunch even though it was really far out of his way.”
It’s fine to write about prized possessions, your pets, or abstract states (being grateful for your health, etc.), but make sure to mention at least one social relationship every day, and if you’re struggling with jealousy or social insecurity (or FOMO), the more you can be grateful for the people in your life, the better.
If you adhere to this practice faithfully, you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities for your journal throughout the day, which will prime you to see the good in your interactions with other people and the things in your life.
It can take some time to see results, but I noticed a difference in my mood and instinctual responses to things after about 22 days of perfect adherence.
Anyway, Happy World Gratitude Day (tomorrow anyway)!
I know I am grateful for all of you who read this blog.