By: Tasnin Khan
As a Self-Help and life junkie, I have been reading about and poring over lists and explanations and articles that detailed “How to Be Happy” for quite some time. Then, about two years ago, I came across an article that described happiness in a new way that I never really thought about: being grateful. Accordingly to the article that was shared by a friend, it was really gratefulness and keeping track of the things that you appreciate - big or small - that helped you to gain more of a sense of stable joy. I wasn’t sure if I bought into it, and like many other things that you scroll through on your Facebook or Instagram, I continued down my News Feed and went about my day.
But, I noticed that this concept of gratefulness as a true measure of joy followed me since that time when a friend gifted me a 2017 Grateful Diary and beyond. So, a few months ago I aimed to somewhat consistently keep a grateful journal. I set an alarm for 10 PM on my phone, and at that time to end each day, I would write down 10 good things that happened to me that day. It isn’t easy to establish new routines, so even though it was only a 15 minute reflection each day, I definitely haven’t always been the most consistent. But, over time, writing down things that I was grateful for meant that I began to focus more and more on what I was appreciative of and had going for me.
I have definitely fallen victim to chasing the idea of reaching happiness and fulfillment when I would get to whatever milestone that I was working toward. It’s so easy to feel like that goal we have- be it that job promotion, that relationship, that amount of money- will be the thing that comes in to save us and be the source of an abundance of happiness. But I came to realize with keeping a journal with things I am grateful for on the daily that this kind of thinking means that we are giving up the amazing power that we have within us to create the world and joy that we wish to with our minds now. It means that we are always chasing after something and setting the bar higher and higher for happiness and fulfillment, making it forever unreachable. As long as we do this, the very thing that we crave so badly will just seem to be dangling itself out of our reach higher and higher.
Eventually, I started to find myself unable to just stop at 10 things I was grateful for. Like a snowball effect, 10 became 15, 15 to 20, and beyond. Even the smallest of things that I previously didn’t even think about, I began to notice and feel immensely grateful for. This led to a lot of personal growth for me, because it shifted my mindset and created one of abundance. By appreciating the things, people, and memories - be they small or large - each day, I started to feel like I was expanding outside of my mind and my worries and a focus on the things that I wished were different or wanted. My world became larger, and I started to be less anxious and sweat the small stuff and relax into a sense of peacefulness that came with realizing that I was part of a larger fabric and that in so many ways that I had previously not noticed, I was being looked out for by the Universe on the daily.
We live in a constant “on the grind” capitalistic culture that has us running a never-ending rat race and fills our minds with ideas of how we will be happy when we reach a certain destination or acquire certain materialistic items - like a house or a certain Balenciaga bag or have a certain net worth or even amount of likes on Instagram. I am definitely not saying that there is anything wrong with living your best life and creating vision boards and dreams that are big and include these things if you wish - but, the most important thing is that you create a dream and chase after it because you want it and it works for you, not because it was put into your head by mainstream ideas and because everyone else has it or Rihanna does or such and such influencer, and so it must be what you have too.
Don’t get me wrong - this is definitely a practice like anything else, and I am not saying that this will be the magic solution to all of life’s problems. But keeping a diary and especially one of gratefulness definitely showed me how I think, how powerful our minds are, and the strength and power that we have within ourselves to control how we react to and perceive our worlds and circumstances. Take some time to try it for yourself and see if it makes you feel uplifted too - what are you for grateful for?