The big thing lately in psychology to turn anyone’s frown upside down is to have a gratitude practice. It’s suggested that a regular gratitude practice changes your brain chemically to be happier. There is now science that backs it.
The suggestion is always to keep a gratitude journal where you write 10 things you are grateful for everyday in a special journal. You can even buy special gratitude journals that are sold in bookstores and online everywhere. It all felt like a lot of work to me. I can probably think of hundreds of things I’m grateful for in a day and often do even on the worst of the worst days. I somehow got born with the gift of being a natural optimist. Some days, it’s definitely not hundreds, but having a soft blanket and a couple irritating dogs to snuggle with are constant reminders of the good in my life.
I went to residential treatment, which I call my “trauma resort” for my childhood trauma in 2017. The above picture is my gratitude jar. It’s looking a little sparse for what it should be. The massage therapist/aromatherapy teacher there told me about this gratitude practice where you write one thing a day everyday for a year and on New Year’s Day, you open the jar and read them. That felt simple, doable, fun, easy, and a good activity to teach my son.
I was really good at doing it before bed as part of my routine. My son often did it with me when he spent the night as I felt it was important he recognized gratitude when he had been experiencing plenty of difficulties himself (having a sick mom was only a fraction of it).
Then I started in with the multiple hospitalizations for physical illnesses in March, which got me out of the practice. I think I just forgot as the jar is in my dining room, which I don’t use a lot except to pile my mountain of medical bills in.
So I think gratitude, but I wasn’t doing a tangible gratitude practice, which is the part that does the neuro plasticity to make you more joyous. I remember sending the woman who told me about this particular gratitude practice a message that I hadn’t done it for awhile and felt bad. Her response was something to the effect of “there’s no one right way to do gratitude”. She’s right. I was trying to do gratitude perfectly. Ha! Perfection is not something to be grateful for.
Tonight, I finally remembered to get back to my gratitude practice. I could have written a hundred more, but it was getting late, and I liked that I wrote several. So if I forget tomorrow or for a week, I can do it whenever or however as there is no, one right way to do gratitude.
I have plenty to be sad about lately, but I also have a lot to be extremely joyous and thankful for. I was in a pretty good place when I wrote these several down, but I felt even better once I was done. As my energy levels have dropped drastically, I have to use my energy wisely. The 10-15 minutes I did this was much better than scrolling through fake Facebook, which I am limiting to 10-15 minutes a day as well. I make my quick posts. I don’t care who likes it or not. Unfortunately as someone who is working to near completion on a book, I have to publicize my blog and parts of my life via social media.
I do encourage a gratitude practice even if things are very bleak. I obviously didn’t do it everyday this year. I probably won’t even look at it New Year’s Day, but maybe when my jar is full, I’ll just get another jar and begin again. Perhaps I’ll look through them someday. Maybe someone will be lucky enough to inherit my gratitude jars (about the most valuable thing I have!)
If those gratitude journals seem like too much work for you like they did me. Maybe one thing a day or as often as you can, even if you throw it in a paper sack will give you just that boost of good brain juice you need. I’m also not endorsing you forget what hurts or makes you sad, but just a little gratitude can go a long way to move through the misery instead of staying stuck in it.
I also want to put the disclaimer of nothing that I say is about my being perfect in how I do it or that my way is the right way. If you were lucky (or unlucky) to know me prior to 2017 and really know where I was at, I was really stuck in misery. If you would have told me to do a gratitude practice, I would have smiled sweetly and said, “thanks for the suggestion”, but in my mind I would be thinking you were full of garbage and thinking you should just go jump off a cliff with your positive BS. Just want you to know I’ve been there.
(Writing out my gratitude notes)