on gratitude


I've decided that on Fridays I'll be doing Facebook Live videos at 11 a.m., and this week, I answered the following question from Andi:

"What are the small things that have helped you through such a challenging time?  The little things you might've said to yourself, routines that you created, etc., that you had before the flood that allowed you to feel more peaceful as things moved forward?"

You can watch the entirety of my answer here; however, at one point during the broadcast, I spoke about having a gratitude practice ... and afterwards, I realized that I never formally and publicly shared my thoughts on Chookooloonks about why I find a gratitude practice so important. 

No time like the present, I say.

So my friend Brené Brown, a research professor and social scientist at the University of Houston who has spent much of her career studying vulnerability, shame, courage and authenticity, says that whenever she talks about joy, she always does so in connection with discussing gratitude, as well.  In fact, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, she says of her research:

"Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice."

I believe this wholeheartedly, and fully ascribe to this practice, myself.  In fact, I truly think my gratitude practice saved my life.

Many years ago, when I was in my late 20s, I found myself going through a really rough patch -- I was in the throes of a divorce, I was studying for the bar exam, and I had just been laid off from my very first law job.  Life was incredibly bleak, and I was at the point of giving up.

One night, when I was at a particularly low point, I thought to myself, if I can come up with just one good thing that happened today -- just one good thing -- I'll consider life worth living another day.

So I thought.

And I thought.

And finally, I remembered that I cooked myself a hard-boiled egg that morning for breakfast, and it was pretty near perfect.  That's dumb, I argued with myself.  You just said it had to be one good thing, you didn't say it had to be awesome, I argued back.  And so, I counted it.  Since that night, in 22 years there hasn't been a single night when I've not been able to come up with one good thing.  Sometimes my Good Thing is relatively unimpressive -- for example, I might note to myself that I uncharacteristically made my bed that morning, and it felt good getting into a made bed that night -- but sometimes, my One Good Thing is awesome, like seven years ago, when Brené and I went hot-air ballooning.  Nonetheless, what I've learned is that by developing a gratitude practice, my life, overall, has become more joyful, just because I stop to notice the things that are good.  And honestly, when things aren't going so well, it has become a practice that has sustained me through the tough times.

The lovely thing is that I'm not the only person who has found a gratitude practice lifesaving.  The following video is a TED talk by my sweet friend Hailey Bartholomew -- she shares how a photographic gratitude practice transformed her own life, far more eloquently that I.  Click here or the image below to watch.

So here's to gratitude practices, friends.  If you don't currently have a gratitude practice, I strongly recommend that you start one, in whatever way feels comfortable for you.  I guarantee you that it will transform your life.