Just two short years ago, I hit financial rock bottom.
I’ll never forget waking up in Fort Lauderdale at my friend’s apartment to celebrate her 26th birthday, and realizing I was accidentally overdrawn on my checking account and maxed out on my only credit card. I was literally BROKE.
I had to swallow my pride and ask my friend -- the birthday girl -- to spot me the cash to pay for my meal aka HER OWN birthday brunch.
I felt humiliated. And trapped. And anxious all the time because money was so tight.
Coming home from that trip, I remember sitting with my partner Jason and saying “I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to create a different life for us.”
Armed with nothing but desperation, we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, worked our TAILS off, made changes to our businesses, and step by tiny step, both of our businesses started to grow and our debt started to disappear.
Fast forward just two short years later and now my life looks completely different.
I never worry about over-drafting or borrowing money from friends. My debt is gone. I live in a light, airy modern apartment, waking up to natural light and ocean views. I have a real savings account for the first time in my life. Even as I type this now and reflect on the difference between today and two years ago, I have to pinch myself.
But in spite of those big changes and ways that my life has changed for the better, I’d be lying if I said I FEEL as grateful and joyful as I know my circumstances should reflect every day.
I’m not immune to the stress of business and stupid inconveniences that pop up. I still have moments when I freak out about money, despite being miles away from that broke place I was. And it's all too easy to forget how beautiful and satisfying my surroundings truly are.
Why is that?, I wondered.
Why do we adapt so quickly to our circumstances and why is it so hard to FEEL grateful for what we have?
Why do we always focus on wanting MORE?
And HOW can we bypass this instinct to focus on what’s lacking in order to bring more attention to what's good in our lives?
These are the questions I wanted to focus on in this issue.
So, this month I'm going to ask you to Color Your Soul with GRATITUDE.
November is a natural time to start thinking about what we're grateful for with Thanksgiving just around the corner here in the US, but I wanted to try and use this time to uncover real insights we can all use to cultivate more gratitude all year long -- not just around this time of year.
I’ve poured over gratitude research through articles and books and videos trying to pluck out some very practical ways for us all to use gratitude as a tool to boost our energy, our attitude, and our overall feeling of happiness.
Through all my research, the three themes that seemed to pop up over and over again were: PRESENCE, PERSPECTIVE, and ACTION.
Gratitude is presence.
In order to find gratitude in what’s around you, you first have to bring your attention to the present moment. We spend so much time focusing on the future and what we want, or dwelling on the past and harboring guilt or longing for what has already happen, that we neglect what is right under our noses: the present moment. The present is hard to stay in because by comparison, it lacks the idealism of the future and the safety of the past, but truly all we REALLY have in each moment is the present, so we need to learn how to connect our consciousness to it.
Gratitude through presence is about taking a moment out of our sprint toward the future to slow down and SIT inside what’s real. To look around for awhile and see what beauty we may be moving too fast to appreciate. I love this quote that I came across in my gratitude research: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” WHAT WE HAVE is the present and that is where the journey of gratitude begins.
Gratitude is perspective.
In psychology, there’s a term called hedonic adaptation, which is the “observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive life changes.” In other words, we’re literally programmed to get used to the good stuff that happens in our lives, which helps explain why I don’t wake up ELATED based on the story I shared with you above. It’s not until we take those moments to slow down and remind ourselves how our present compares to other times in our lives or even the lives of other people who may not have what we have that we can really SEE the great strides we’ve made.
Gratitude through perspective is all about appreciating what you have by reminding yourself how it compares to other circumstances. It’s about using contrast to bring greater attention to the beautiful things right in front of you.
Gratitude is action.
Okay, here’s the doozy. For sure, the one connective thread through everything I’ve read on gratitude is this: it’s not just a feeling; it’s an action. In order to use gratitude effectively, you can’t just think about what you’re grateful for, you have to turn it into an active practice. To be effective, it has to be DEPLOYED. As Brene says, “it’s not just about an attitude of gratitude, it’s a PRACTICE.” It’s an action -- a deliberate activity that can bring gratitude into focus. She also shared this amazing quote by Brother David Steindl-Rast “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Gratitude through action is about recognizing that in order for us to use gratitude to make an impact on our overall level of happiness in joy, we have to put it in motion. We have to take action to bring it to our attention daily and that’s where the magic happens.
Throughout this issue, I’ll share with you some of my research on gratitude and share with you real, tangible ways you can introduce gratitude as an ACTION into your life. It is scientifically proven that gratitude is a powerful force to bring positivity into our lives, if we’re willing to deploy the effort to use it.
I have two new contributors to share with you their stories about gratitude, plus a collaboration with Dani of positively present to host a daily gratitude photo challenge on Instagram.
I’ll be the first to admit that as I stop and look around, I have TONS to be grateful for in my life, but I want to actually feel that on a regular basis. I think the key to that is really adapting this whole gratitude thing into my daily life, and I hope you guys will join me on that journey. I’ll be using the Five Minute Journal (look for it in the inspiration links section) to write down my daily gratitude, so if you want to join me on that journey I encourage you to do the same.
It’s tempting to keep our focus fixated on the future.
We’ll be happy WHEN we finally make X money.
We’ll be happy WHEN we finally get that book deal.
We’ll be happy WHEN we can move to that new city.
But why not be happy NOW? Why not find joy in what is here in the present for us to love.
I believe our path to peace in the present is gratitude, and I’m excited to see what insights arise as we stay mindful of this theme all month long.
And, lastly, I just want to say…
I’m so grateful to have connected with people out there in the world who share the same values as me and appreciate the work and heart I pour into Color your Soul. I’m grateful for YOU.
(Wow, they’re right. That felt really good! This gratitude thing is kind of awesome!)