Happiness is the new black—everyone seems to want more of it, and now there seems to be a sure way to grab a little more of it- through a gratitude practice. Whether it is keeping a journal of 10 daily things that you are grateful for, or filling out a wipe off board while having your morning coffee, or simply acknowledging your gratitude out loud, the key is to practice, practice, practice. Scientifically proven, a regular and consistent gratitude practice will make you happier. Easy Peasy.
I was discussing this whole gratitude thing while visiting a girlfriend in Sarasota, Florida last week. We both had heard several times that a gratitude practice works—yet neither one of us practiced it.
“So if gratitude works, why don’t either one of us do it?” she asked me. I told her that I actually did it for about four days last spring, writing down 10 things daily– but then I stopped, not because I didn’t like it or because it wasn’t working. “I just forgot one day.” I told her. And that was the truth.
Together, we thought we could nail this gratitude thing. We decided that while I was visiting her in Florida (another 2 1/2 days,) we would practice gratitude regularly, getting us in the habit. We figured the best way to remember was to be grateful every time we ate. We never forget to eat.
“So what if we say out loud what we are grateful for, every time we are about to put anything into our mouths?” she suggested. I thought about what it would be like to give a little gratitude each time I opened the fridge.
“Even snacks?” I asked. I didn’t think I could handle being grateful 125 times a day.
I suggested a little gratitude session before each “formal” meal, four times a day (cocktail hour is a meal in my house.) That sounded more realistic.
She agreed, and there we were, on our mission. By lunchtime, approximately 3 hours later, we had completely forgotten our mission.
“Damn it,” I said, as I was clearing the lunch dishes. “We forgot to be grateful.” We agreed that dinner was a better time to start.
But that evening, as I sat with her at a restaurant bar excited by a martini with oversized blue cheese olives and a dozen oysters, we were talking about other things: where the best oysters were from, the killer earrings I had just scored, a little Florida politics. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful (especially for the earrings,) we just forgot to practice. We even forgot that we had forgotten to be grateful.
The next morning, we sat down for breakfast. I was thinking about work as I shoved my cottage cheese and fruit into my mouth. No one mentioned gratitude.
For lunch that day, a light bulb went off. We held hands as our lentil soup cooled.
“I am grateful that I did not forget about practicing gratitude before we ate lunch,“ I said.
Her gratitude was a little more earnest, all mushy mushy. I figured we were on a roll.
That night for dinner, we met friends at a restaurant for sushi. I was excited about the gigantic platter of colorful raw fish in front of me and seeing wonderful friends I had not seen in a while. I forgot about being grateful. I was too busy being happy.
Then I got up to go to the ladies’ room.
I followed the pointed finger directing me to the restrooms. I walked in (there was no door—it was a walk in kind of thing) glanced to the left at a rather unpleasant looking urinal, and proceeded to the stall.
As I closed the stall door and did my business, the image of the urinal hit the thinking part of my brain.
“This must be one of those unisex bathrooms,” I thought.
“But shouldn’t the urinal be a little more private?” I thought again.
Then, “Why would they have a urinal at all in a unisex bathroom?”
Then (finally), “Could I be in the men’s room?”
I was. As I washed my hands, I immediately thought of two reasons why I was very grateful: 1. I did not come out of the stall to surprise a man with his weenie out; and 2. I had female anatomy and did not have to use urinals.
Both gratitude thoughts made me happy—or at least a little less miserable for being stupid.
Forget the food. My gratitude practice should revolve around stupidity. From now on, every time I do something stupid, I will be find at least two things to be grateful for. Finally, I will finally have a consistent gratitude practice that works for me.