I’ll be the first to admit it–sometimes I have a bad attitude.
A family trip to New York City. It is dark out, and as is customary with trips to New York City, my legs and feet are aching from hours of walking. I am in my early teens, and am therefore quite moody on the best of days. A decision is made that I am unhappy with (this decision, though monumental at the time, has now entirely slipped my memory). In my angry stomp ahead of the rest of my family unit, my foot snags on the uneven pavement and I crash to the ground. I am so angry that even though I am bleeding and my ankle is throbbing, I continue my sprinting march without hesitation.
There are plenty of exhibits I could offer up as evidence of this fact, but suffice it to say that sometimes, I get grouchy. I let little things get to me. I let the negatives outweigh the positives. The glass is half-empty. Yadda yadda yadda.
As I’m getting older, I’m realizing more and more that I want to change that attitude into gratitude, and I find myself trying to bring that spirit to those around me. For my little sister, that means emphasizing the “magic words”–please and thank you. While these may not be the most exciting words in the English language, they are a way to improve your gratitude. Taking the time to ask nicely for things you want (whether it’s a pony for your birthday or the salt shaker at dinner) and then following that up with an expression of your gratitude seems like it should improve your mood. As for myself, it means trying to be conscious about why I’m acting the way I’m acting. When people bring up my thesis and say things like “just get writing,” my mood immediately plummets. However, realizing that my irritation is more about my own inability to get the project done and not at the perceived insensitivity of the other person in the conversation helps me to be a little less negative. Instead of starting a feud or stewing about the incident for days on end, I can now let it go and focus on the really important things. I can even be grateful that there are people in my life who care enough to ask me about how my work is going rather than being upset because I don’t have good news to tell them.
However, I don’t think there can ever be enough gratitude, and so I’ve started a gratitude journal. Each night, I’m going to write down one thing that the preceding day has made me grateful for. This idea of taking time out to explicitly acknowledge something that you’re grateful for really appeals to me. Whether it’s done privately in a journal or as a nightly exercise at the dinner table, gratitude should definitely be expressed. Children learn based on the behavior that’s modeled around them, so imagine the positive benefits if they hear adults at the dinner table sharing positive things?
The gratitude journal also forces me to go through my day looking for the positive things rather than the negative. Instead of being upset I only wrote three pages for my thesis today, I can be grateful that I got any writing done at all. Rather than lamenting the fact that it rained this afternoon and I couldn’t go in the pool, I can be thankful that Western New York hasn’t been seriously impacted by the horrible weather conditions that have plagued other parts of the world.
What are some ways you bring more gratitude into your life?