I’m grateful for wool socks on this cold winter morning. Our house is a 1920′s Sear’s Roebuck drafty special. But with generous gifts from my wife and sister, I’ve gone from a scrappy, hole-filled, generic, tube-sock wearer to a fancy wool-sock fanatic. I remember scoffing at the site of them at REI a few years back. A single pair costs as much as a monthly salary in some countries! But I’m supremely grateful.
A month ago, I might have never even noticed. But I’m extra sensitive to gratitude lately, thanks to some good advice.
My family did a gratitude experiment this past month based on a sermon by Rev. Gale Robb (of Mac-Plymouth United Church), which led us to a TED talk by Shawn Achor, who is one of those happiness experts out of Harvard. It turned out great, even though we did a poor job following the experiment with fidelity. Between bouts of strep throat and ear infections, busy holidays, and a last minute tonsillectomy (I’m grateful for doctors), we missed a few of the required days. But it still changed us.
Here’s the experiment. Every day, take two minutes to write down three NEW things you are grateful for. The NEW is important. My sons quickly learned they could not just say video games and candy over and over. What happens is you become challenged to find more things to be grateful for, which is not that hard if you take the time to really look. Sure, I’ve always tried to be grateful, but it has been easy in the past to fall back on being grateful for my job, my beautiful wife, and my fun kids (and I still am); then you got your health, and food, and warmth. But by day three of the experiment, I had to really start thinking of some new things. I had to work at being grateful.
So then something remarkable happens. You start looking around throughout the day for more stuff to be grateful for. And, duh, it’s everywhere.
For example, one dreary, wet morning on my bike ride to work, in the dark, in the cold, in December–a ride that usually would be a slog, at best–I discovered that I was really grateful for good architecture. The beautiful lines and bold colors of unique buildings that filled Saint Paul’s skyline really struck me, delighted me, made me pause and enjoy the moment. The fact that I was searching for something new to be grateful for, as artifical as that felt, pulled me into the moment and opened the world up a little more to me. Then I was grateful for the way good lighting magnified these buildings in the dark morning. Then I was grateful for the women and men who created the buildings, the lights, and all who planned the city. It was a beautiful feedback loop. I wasn’t slogging my way to work as usually–I was enjoying a beautiful moment.
The experiment worked. Try it. For 21 Days, take 2 minutes, and think of 3 new things. Hopefully, you never stop.
Take a moment to comment below: what’s the strangest thing you’re thankful for. My oldest son added MacGyver yesterday.
Also, if you like what you’ve read, hit subscribe on the side; then you’ll get the posts via email (I won’t sell your email, no matter how much they beg me). And if you’re grateful for good music, you can download my favorite folk band’s (The Falderals) latest album here for free.
Give up and die…you’ll be happy you did.