I was feeling pretty pitiful and overwhelmed at the end of October.
So, when I took up the task to select a book for the first Rockstar Comeback virtual book club, gratitude bubbled up to the surface for the obvious topic (plus, our discussion week fell over Thanksgiving).
The Gratitude Diaries was written from the perspective of a somewhat cynical journalist, Janice Kaplan, which stood out as a great way to approach a topic that we often write-off as mushy or unnecessary.
The beauty of gratitude is that it’s almost a cure-all.
Research has shown that simple, but purposeful gratitude practices can make us happier, healthier, more attractive and more successful.
The rub is that gratitude isn’t really naturally occurring. One must engage in a activities or rituals on an ongoing basis to build up and maintain an overall sense of appreciation.
That explains why most of us our self-centered, pessimistic whiners.
The book is a worthwhile and enjoyable read, but here are the collective takeaways that resonated with the group, especially in relation to resiliency:
1. This Isn’t Hippy Bull*
Two thousands years ago, Greek philosopher Epictetus summed it up, “People are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”
Gratitude is simply a “mental exercise that primes the mind for positivity” and “when people share positive emotions with each other, scans show their brains sync up and show similar activity,” so we not only boost our own moods, we impact those around us for the better.
2. Gratitude is the Anecdote to Wanting More
Success in our society is all about moving forward. Achieve one goal and there’s another to take it’s place. Gratitude requires a different approach – “relishing the moment and not fretting about the next step.”
The real voyage of discovery “consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” (a new favorite quote from French Novelist, Marcel Proust).
3. Gratitude Actually Leads to More Success
One might erroneously conclude that those who focus on appreciating what they already have, instead of how to be, do, or have more would put in less effort toward their goals and ultimately settle for enough.
In fact, the research shows otherwise. “People who are consciously practicing gratitude gain a sense of purpose and a desire to achieve,” ultimately reaching more of their goals.
4. Gratitude Requires Effort, but Also Creates a Virtuous Cycle
It’s natural to focus on the negative. “If ten great things and one lousy one happen in a day, most of us will spend dinner telling our spouse about the lousy one…Our ancestors survived by remembering the one poisonous berry they encountered and telling their friends about it.”
However, when you deploy gratitude tactics in your own life, you naturally start to express appreciation to those around you, stop complaining as much, and become open to positive or “lucky” opportunities.
These chain reactions bring even more positivity into your life to be grateful for.
The author spent a year introducing positivity into specific areas of her life (a smart way to audit and target appreciation deficits and see tangible results):
- Significant Other / Marriage
- Kids / Family
- Stuff We Own
A variety of rituals and actions were mentioned throughout the book, so I figured a consolidated “gratitude to do list” would appease my type-A personality (while serving as an easy reference for future self-pity slumps).
- Keep a gratitude journal (1-3 times per week)
- Take photos of experiences, people or things you are grateful for, as you recognize your appreciation (doing something has a stronger effect than just thinking about it)
- Meditate every morning for 5-10 minutes with a focus on gratitude
- Find someone to meaningfully thank every single day
- Make a gratitude visit: Write a letter to someone who has made an impact on your life, meet up, and then read it to them with no prior warning
- Engage in quality time with someone you love while purposefully turning any potential advice or criticism into a compliment or listening moment
- Write an “ethical will” for your children and/or significant other: “…shouldn’t we also leave our children a record of our values and hopes, our dreams for their future?”
- Embrace a new experience (“…you sometimes need to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep repeating them like machines. You then let fresh air into your mind.” – Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti)
- Ban yourself from commiserating – When a friend whines, have the courage to respond with a positive reframe, instead of jumping on the complain train
- Place a favorite quote that puts you in a grateful mindset next to your alarm clock so that it’s the first thing you see in the morning.
On that last note, here are a few great quotes from The Gratitude Diaries that you can steal:
Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust
There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
– John Ruskin
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
– Marcus Aurelius
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
– Greek philosopher Epicurus
Here’s to a relentless pursuit of resiliency, and finding ways to “get into the moment and see the beauty of the world and the people in it.”