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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, despite those big changes and immense positive improvements to my financial situation, 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 just 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 we have 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 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. (I've even started my own gratitude practice to see if the effects of daily gratitude are really all they're cracked up to be.)
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 what we want the future to hold, or harboring guilt and longing for what has already happened in the past, that we often 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/certainty of the past. However, all we TRULY 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 have been moving too fast to appreciate. I love this quote that I came across in my gratitude inspiration: “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 every morning based on the story I shared with you above.) It’s not until we take that time 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 and fully acknowledge the journey we've been on.
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. The ONE connective thread through every bit of research and insight I came across on gratitude is this: gratitude is not just a feeling; it’s an action. In order to use this powerful tool effectively, we can’t just think about what we're grateful for and expect to suddenly feel happier; it has to be an active practice. It must be IMPLEMENTED. As Dr. Brené Brown shares in this video: “It’s not just about an 'attitude of gratitude'; it’s a PRACTICE.” It’s about engaging in a deliberate activity that can bring gratitude into focus. She also shared the amazing quote by Brother David Steindl-Rast that you see above and in this issue's sketchbook pieces: “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 levels of happiness and joy, we have to put it in motion. We have to take steps to intentionally bring it to our attention on a consistent basis, and that’s when the magic can be felt.
Throughout this issue, I’ll share with you some of my research on gratitude along with some 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 our first daily challenge collaboration with Dani of PositivelyPresent.com who we'll be joining for her annual 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 making that a reality is making the commitment to bring 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 pick up a copy and do the same!
Listen, I know 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 similar values with me and appreciate the work and heart I pour into Color Your Soul. In other words... I’m grateful for YOU.
(Wow, they’re right. That felt really good! This gratitude thing is kind of awesome!)