At the beginning of November I challenged myself to a 30-Day Gratitude Challenge. I knew that it would add extra work to my already hectic schedule. But I also knew that the timing was good. November is one of my favorite months AND Thanksgiving was right around the corner. Plus, everywhere I went people were talking about the coming U.S. elections. And regardless of who they hoped would win—there seemed to be a lot of fear, anger and worry associated with the process. Hurricane Sandy was also looming on the horizon. I knew I needed to take the focus off those things outside myself and place them firmly on the good that I have in my day-to-day life. Hence, the gratitude challenge was born.
Obviously since you are reading this on or around Thanksgiving Day, I haven’t even completed the entire 30-Day Challenge. But I’m very happy to report that I have already received ten HUGE lessons from the challenge and want to share them with you. They are:
- Sharing gratitude is fun. Something I didn’t expect was how uplifting and fun the experience was going to be. Sure, it’s something that sounds possible—but until you’re actually doing it and sharing it with others you don’t really know. I’m proof positive that the time and effort is worth it!
- It connects you to new like-minded friends. I didn’t really expect that I would be making new friends although I certainly hoped that the idea would spread. What I’ve found is that by reaching out and connecting with others who are also “into” gratitude, I’ve connected with some wonderful people who are very positive, generous and interesting.
- It turns your focus away from things that may trouble or worry you. As I mentioned above, I started this challenge before the election occurred and I am happy to say that I sailed right through the entire experience as optimistic as ever. (And I know lots of people who didn’t!) Instead of allowing myself to dwell on things outside my control, I choose instead to scour the Internet and books looking for great gratitude quotes and similar photos. And I found them! Spend the day doing that—and trust me, your focus will change as well.
- It gives you something positive and upbeat to discuss with friends. With so many people focused on the election, or the devastation of Sandy, I had something verifiably optimistic to share with my friends. Even discussions that questioned whether it was good to focus on the positive while others were going through difficulty, elevated the conversation.
- I reminded myself how good my life really is and what parts of it were the most important. For those of us committed to simplifying our life it is critical that we realize those things that are vital to our true happiness. My relationship with my husband, my health and a handful of a few other items (both internal and external) are the real gems in my experience. Focusing on gratitude helped me focus on them.
- The Internet is an amazing vehicle for sharing positive news. We constantly hear news about how the Internet is changing our lives and not all of it is positive. But doing the gratitude challenge, finding information and sharing it with old and new friends is a great example of how wonderfully powerful it can be.
- It helps you discover easily and clearly those people around you who choose to be optimistic and willing to believe in possibilities. Obviously not everyone does, and a challenge that asks you to focus on gratitude and the good in your life, clearly separates those that do—from those that don’t. Once you discover that divide it is best to move on in the direction of your choice. Remember, what others think of you (me) is none of our business!
- It expands your feeling of generosity. I didn’t expect this side benefit. But after reaching out and spreading the word about gratitude I realized that it was making me feel more generous. Because I was feeling so inspired and uplifted I wanted to share that with others in big and small ways. This is something you have to experience so the only way you’ll probably agree is if you try it yourself.
- It makes gratitude a habit. After reading the book “The Power of Habits” and writing about it, I now know exactly how integrated habits are in our daily lives. 40% of our actions each and every day are habits. Focusing on gratitude for an extended length of time has made gratitude a big part of my reality—a habit. While I always knew gratitude was important—it’s now more than that—its part who I am.
- Gratitude is a way of life. I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to do a “gratitude challenge.” In fact, I have found a large number of websites and Facebook pages that are doing annual gratitude challenges and commitments. By connecting with all these great people and keeping gratitude on the forefront of my thoughts, my life is already different. And that’s a choice each and every one of us has available.
While I doubt any of these gratitude lessons are earthshaking news to most of the people reading this post—I still felt a reminder would benefit us all. I write continuously about how “what we think about, we bring about.” But until we make the choice, and then follow through long enough for something to become automatic—it’s far too easy to let it go. In other words, talk is cheap. If you want a solid and practical way to make positive change in your life RIGHT NOW then a 30-day gratitude challenge is an excellent way to get it going. If you do, remember that all of your friends here at SMART Living 365 are waiting hear your version of “Lessons From Gratitude.”