The Small Joys of Being Grateful
I’m the type of person who looks at every good thing that comes into my life and wonders when it’s going to leave. And while exploring this in therapy, the answer was embarrassingly obvious: focusing on my gratitude for whatever good things have come before me — even if some of them aren’t permanent.
So for a week in May I tried to keep myself accountable by posting on my Instagram stories what I was thankful for each day.
And then the best possible thing happened: my gratitude became contagious. Every few days, I’ve received a message from someone else who decided to do the same.
It’s so simple, just a list of things they’re thankful for. But it warms my heart in the deepest of ways to see that someone took this practice and made it their own.
So for months, I’ve cultivated a little section of the internet where I post the things I’m most grateful for in the moment. And what did I learn? That I have so many (huge and small) blessings, accomplishments to be proud of, and a beautiful environment that made for plentiful pictures along the way.
The result has become extreme appreciation for the tiniest of things. A fiery orange tree at the end of my block that makes me tear up when I walk through the fallen leaves beneath it. The way my favorite jeans still magically fit even when my body changes size.
A few things I didn’t realize made such a difference until I started practicing gratitude intentionally: Scrunchies coming back into style. Finding a snack in my purse. Drunk Hal who ordered things online to surprise sober Hal later. When someone else cancels plans first. Michelle Obama’s arms. Costco hot dogs. Other people’s pets.
Behavioral psychology teaches us that people’s actions are varied in different circumstances, but consistent over time. I think the same is true for practicing gratitude. Each day I’m thrust into new circumstances, which make me grateful for new things, make me pay attention to new parts of my surroundings. But over time, I’ve found a few pillars of my life that make me feel extremely thankful for the life I was born into: my parents, my body, my alone time.
In no way are these three things revolutionary, but I was certainly surprised to look back as I wrote this post and see how many times I’ve been thankful for the way my body adapts to change.
This year has been an emotionally turbulent one, and my body wasn’t just along for the ride, nay, it was at the helm.
There were weeks when I ran 10 miles just to work up an appetite, and weeks when my dinner was a bowl of brownie batter every. single. night.
There was a day I ate an entire large pepperoni pizza by myself, crying into the crust while I watched season 3 of Will & Grace for the millionth time. It took me 12 hours to get through both things, but I did it.
My body carried me through 11 months of weekly boxing classes, while I learned that I love to punch the shit out of stuff. My body sat alert in the driver’s seat of my car while I made countless trips back to North Carolina. And through it all, my body let me sleep soundly on nights I was exhausted after 14-hour days of work and school.
And I am so thankful it has remained healthy (mostly) and whole throughout this ridiculous year.
Is being grateful a radical new concept? Of course not.
It’s just one part of several ways I unabashedly expose my inner thoughts on the internet. The other, of course, is this blog, which reminds me: I’m so thankful you’re here too.
If you want to see the rest of my posts, you can check the ‘Gratitude’ highlight on my Instagram profile.