Every night before I go to bed I open up the Gratitude document and write a list of all the things that I’ve been grateful for during the day. It can be anything. If I had a particularly good cheese sandwich for lunch, it goes on the list. If someone compliments my shoes, it goes on. If I have a niggle-free bag day, I put that on the list. I work with talented, interesting people, so I put that on my list. My girlfriend goes at the top and in CAPITALS. Personally I don’t like to use too many exclamation marks, but they’re sprinkled all over my gratitude list like hundreds and thousands. I think it’s okay to be cheesy with it.
When I first started writing my daily lists I felt a bit of a plonker. It didn’t feel like something a 37-year-old supposed man of the world should be doing. It felt naff. But that feeling quickly went away. What I find now is just the act of writing the list shifts my focus away from life’s irritations and niggles. And after I type out each thing I’m grateful for, I give myself a moment to think about whatever it is. It sounds corny as hell, but it’s kind of hard to stop myself smiling.
Keeping the list also makes me more conscious of the good things in my life. It makes me seek more of them out. I look for them now. Yesterday I was walking through Piccadilly Circus, which I’ve done hundreds of times before, but just for once I stopped and took it all in. And as I looked around me I thought to myself – wow, I’m living in one of the most exciting cities in the world, on my way for a mooch round Waterstone’s Piccadilly, in a great art deco building and then afterwards I’m going to have a really good cheese sandwich. That’s pretty cool.
Now in cold black and white pixels that may sound like a load of old hippy nonsense, but just a few weeks ago I could have made the exact same journey and I would have been chuntering to myself about bloody tourists getting under my feet, the lights taking ages to change and generally being a cantankerous old git. I would have been so wrapped up in my gloomy thoughts Eros could have been replaced by Jesus the Redeemer and I wouldn’t have noticed.
And I wouldn’t say I was particularly unhappy before, or that I was a sour, miserable sod all the time. At least not outwardly, but inwardly I was perhaps dwelling on the negatives a little too much. I think I was probably like a lot of Londoners.
But just by spending a few minutes every day writing my list, littered with all those cheesy exclamation marks, I’m training myself to think more positively, to appreciate what I have and enjoy it. It makes me live much more in the present. Not in the past or the future, but in the moment.
So here’s an example of how I start my list:
Wednesday, 21st October, 2009
Today I am happy and grateful for…
1. Having the time to write a blog about my gratitude list
And then I keep adding to it until I run out of stuff. There's usually somewhere between 8 and 15 things on the finished list.
If you decide to give it a go, try it for a week and then let me know if you feel any different. I’d be really interested in the results.
It works for me!!!!