Being Grateful Seems Easy, Until You're Required to Be It
Being "grateful" for a cup of coffee is kiiiiiind of a cop-out in the game of gratitude.
A lot of new-age bullshit goes on in my household. I say that with the utmost love: I live in a place known as "The Witch House house." My roommates are all witches, astrological-chart readers and metaphysical experts who use their skills to guide us and our friends through many major life decisions. When one of us reaches a crossroads with a job or relationship, we are always instructed to "pull a card" (that's witch-speak for consulting the tarot deck) before doing anything.
So recently, when a few of us in the house decided to take on a 21-day challenge to get happier (I know, with all of this new-age bullshit going on, we should already be happy, but we're human), it seemed like a totally feasible, friendly competition. The challenge includes 21 days of meditation and exercise daily, which we witches all do daily anyway. That was the easy part of the challenge. The hard part? Finding three things to be grateful for each day.
The whole point of this competition to get stoked is explained in the above TED Talk (I know, I know: TED Talks are played out at this point, but this one is good, I swear!) Basically, the idea is that if you think positively -- actively make a point to think happy thoughts and intentionally perform acts of kindness and service to others every day for these three weeks -- you will become happier.
Each day, you must also journal all of this -- specifically, three things/people/experiences you are grateful for and one joyous moment or interaction from earlier in the day, because apparently when you write down a past experience, you can effectively relive those feelings. From there, because your brain is now running on #soblessed, you are supposed to become a more productive and likable human.
This all seemed easy enough for me. I mean, I'm a Virgo. I revel in a good personal challenge, and this experiment to turn me into a full-time happy ass sounded great! The first few days went smoothly -- I was cruising along, getting my gym time in, meditating like a pro, journaling my random acts of kindness and being all kinds of grateful for my family, my awesome boyfriend, my job that I like a lot, etc. I mean, the gratefulness was never-ending. Except, it did end.
Now, on day fifteen of this challenge, I find great difficulty in just sitting down and writing out things to be grateful for. I've begun feeling like those people who Instagram photos of their Starbucks purchases and file them under the 100 Happy Days Challenge. Nothing is wrong with this challenge, and I certainly have no problem with Starbucks (it's my one gross vice, since I don't drink or smoke anymore). But counting coffee or something you purchased as something to be grateful for? I don't know about that.
Have you ever sat down and tried to write down a couple dozen immaterial items or experiences you are thankful for? It feels impossible. Even in this world of on-demand, instantaneous everything, the ability to be gratified or satisfied by things we can't see, touch or buy has become a bit elusive. All you need is love, right? And an iPad and a computer and/or a phone that costs more than your first car. Oh, and a cup of coffee.
I suppose this is when a 21-day happiness challenge becomes an actual challenge -- when I have to sit down and look at my life and realize that there is so much to be happy to be alive for. My experiences, my ability to be of service to others, my life outside of what I can buy, are all things to be grateful for. I challenge you to try this challenge, too -- and see if it doesn't change what life is all about.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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