We Tried A Week Of Gratitude And It Was Actually Awesome

The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: Gratitude.

This Weeks Participants: Lauren, Molly, Mayura, and Alanna

img_8085

image

15541310_10154732753703162_2922240363783810667_n

15591504_10157965579755593_8480734582168941171_o

Lauren

I really wanted to do this challenge because these last few months have been very stressful (especially post-election). I’ve been transitioning into a new city, I haven’t had a break since May after working the entire summer as a camp counselor, and a slightly tense living situation all make it hard to see the positives. There are a lot of things in life that I’m so grateful for and I know that I’m very lucky to have so many opportunities. I hope this Weekly Wednesday challenge will help me keep life in perspective and be more positive (we’ll see how that holds up). My goal is to identify three a day with no repeats.

Molly

As a journalist, I don’t take a ton of time to write things in secret. For my blog, books, magazines, websites… Sure. I write a lot of words on a daily basis. But I used to keep a journal religiously up into college—it just trailed off the more I started writing for a living. So the idea of starting a journal (for an article) was intriguing. Could I get back in the habit? And, even better, could a gratitude journal actually start shifting my perspective on things? I was stoked to find out if daily writing—optimistic daily writing—would make me feel grumpy that I was writing words that no one else would see, or if I would feel revitalized, and more inspired about my writing. I figure it’s a toss-up.

Mayura

The past few months have been tumultuous for me – between moving to a new state, starting a new job, and trying out this whole thing called “adulting,” I’ve had a hard time focusing on the positive changes in my life. I hope that this week will help me focus on all of the good in my life despite the uncertainty and change around me, and help me keep grounded even when things feel overwhelming.

Alanna

I was extremely happy to learn of this  Wellness Wednesday challenge because I have a tendency to be a bitter and pessimistic person. I’m sure that some of the things that I am thankful for this week are going to be on the glass-half-empty side, but I’m hoping that this week will help me realize all the good things that I have in my life.

Day One

Lauren:

It’s so hard to identify things I’m grateful for and since I’m not used to daily reflection, finding a third daily blessing  was pretty difficult. First, I’m grateful for my boss today. I wasn’t feeling well, so she sent me home early and I really appreciated her understanding. I also really appreciate my coworker who took my afternoon bus route at the school, it really made a difference in my afternoon. I’m so grateful for the kids I work with, the ones who came up and gave me hugs this morning and told me all about their weekend and who made me feel loved and appreciated even though I felt nauseous all day.

Molly

I’m a fan of starting this challenge  on Monday since that’s the day I already do my (ahem, dork alert) Weekly Review in my notebook, where I reflect on  what happened last week, and what to focus on in the upcoming week. Tacking a gratitude entry onto that was actually pretty easy (and a pleasant way to start a review!). I started with the basics: I’m grateful for my excellent husband and awesome job (even if packing for this next work trip is killing me!).

Mayura

Today, I’m grateful for my students—even the ones that aren’t my students. The students that come in during lunch to just talk or come in after school and hang in my room as I’m staying late grading papers. Building relationships with them reminds me why I teach and why I do this job in the first place. I’m also grateful for a 10 minute commute because I had to go in at 6:30 am today and honestly I can’t imagine how it would be if I lived any further away from work.

Alanna

Today I’m grateful for my publishing internship, even though it is unpaid. It’s great experience and will be beneficial to have it on my resume. Because I do need a side job in order to pay rent, so the second thing I’m grateful for today is that I am able to waitress. On that note, I am extremely grateful that coffee has no calories.

Day Two

Lauren

In an interesting turn, I’m very grateful for CVS Minute Clinic. I was able to get antibiotics and I feel significantly better. I’m also grateful for pho, my favorite comfort food, and being able to sleep in. I took today off work and got some much needed rest and got to eat pho, which helped with nausea and added a silver lining to my day.

Molly

Call it the placebo effect, but I almost teared up at dinner with a few friends last night because of how grateful I am to have such a rad crew of friends who still want to hang out despite the fact that we breeze in and out of the area so often that we’re rarely actually around for hangouts. There was a moment during dinner where I was legitimately overwhelmed by how warm and fuzzy I felt towards everyone. So—I’m grateful that I have a bunch of awesome friends that I can write about in my journal. Side note: said journal extends far beyond this note, which is more about the act of keeping a journal versus the journal itself. It’s awesome that these other ladies are sharing what they’re grateful for, but I wanted to keep mine private so I would be honest with myself (otherwise mine would get cheesy super quick), and write in public about how it felt keeping one.  

Mayura

I feel like I’m grateful for the same thing today that I was yesterday. Today one of my most difficult students—the one who is the most disruptive and stubborn in all of my classes—came and had lunch with me today and had a regular conversation with me about his life. It completely made my day. Additionally, with everything going on in Aleppo right now, it makes me remember not to take for granted the things I have in my life and the security and privileges my parents and my upbringing have afforded me.

Alanna

I am so incredibly grateful that my boyfriend likes cooking—or at least that he doesn’t hate it. When I am left to my own devices, I live off of PB&J sandwiches because I can’t be bothered to spend time cooking. Whenever I cook I end up feeling guilty that I spent all that time making food when I have 12 more things on my To Do list that I could’ve been chipping away at. Hats off to you, babe. Thank you for preventing me from developing scurvy. I’m going to count this as the three things I am grateful for today, because he feeds me three times a day. (He even packs me a lunch to take to work. What a gem.)

Day Three

Lauren

Today I’m grateful for beer, good food (that I didn’t have to pay for), and leftovers. I’ve been eating out a lot which has really hurt my personal finances, but one of my roommates made chili last night and offered me her  leftovers. It was great. I also had lunch out with my roommates and our supervisors, it was delicious with lots of food (french fries, flourless chocolate cake) and our program paid for it. I also had two free (for me) beers tonight, I love trying new beers and I had two delicious beers (a pilsner and a white ale) and got to try a bourbon gingerbread stout.

Molly

Travel—especially overnight flights to Europe—can be brutal. And it’s really not helped when your husband spills his smoothie everywhere after fighting with airline people about travel logistics for 30 minutes. Despite this chaos, writing down a few things I was grateful for definitely helped me to put things in perspective and reminded me that even though Europe is a work trip, I get to bring my husband, and be in Belgium for the holidays. Waffles and Nutella, here I come!

Mayura

Moving to Dallas was one of the scariest things I’ve done. I’d always lived within a 2 hour driving distance from my family, and was always in the same state. Moving halfway across the country alone and starting my adult life was terrifying—but I am so grateful for how far I’ve come over the past 6 months. Even though I’m still figuring out this whole “adult” thing, I’m grateful for my independence and for the fact that 90% of the time I do (kind of) know what I’m doing.

Alanna

This is definitely a glass-half-empty gratefulness item, but today I am grateful that I don’t live anywhere near the rest of my family. My split family has spent the better part of a month arguing over who is spending which days with whom over the holidays, and I am all too happy to not take part in that discussion this time around. Not living near them means that I can turn off my phone and they can’t show up at my house to discuss it further. Aside from that, I am grateful for airmiles and airline points, otherwise I would never be able to go back home and see my family (all of them, whenever they decide who gets who on which days). On a completely unrelated note, I’m grateful for public libraries; I have read so many more books this year than I have in previous years because I finally got my act together and got a free library card. It has been life changing and I can’t believe that I went so many years without one.

Day Four

Lauren

I’m having a hard time staying positive today. It’s cold and I’m really grateful for my lobster slippers and jackets and blankets. I’m so lucky to have everything I need to stay warm, including heat. Many students showed up wearing sweatshirts in 30 degree weather and my heart broke. I am grateful to have everything I need and I’m so glad we have extra jackets to give to the kids who don’t have any.

Molly

After said overnight flight, I figured writing this journal entry was going to be an exercise in trying to stay positive. But… when we landed, as we were about to head into a coffee shop to spend six hours at the airport waiting for our ride, we heard someone shouting our names. Surprise appearance from our good friend, who we definitely didn’t expect to see in a random cafe at the Brussels airport! So, instead of grumpily writing that I guess I’m grateful for my health or something equally vague, my mood totally transformed and I was able to write about how grateful I am for random encounters like this one!

Mayura

Today was a rough day, but after school the girls club that I sponsor had a Christmas party and they made cards for their teachers and had cake and candy and they were so happy. I’m grateful for them today—their joy was infectious and helped drag me out of my bad mood.

Alanna

I am grateful that snow exists. Toronto was a snowy, wintery, magical wonderland when I left my internship today and i am grateful that such small joys exist. And that I again live in a place where it snows—I really missed the snow when I lived on the west coast. I am grateful for sledding, making snowmen, ice skating, and the romantic magic that is winter.

Day Five

Lauren

I really want to say I’m grateful for my students again, they’re just so amazing and overcome so much but because I don’t want to repeat, I’m going to say I’m grateful for my job. The staff is so encouraging and wonderful and the volunteers are awesome. We had a huge holiday party for the students, their families, and our volunteers. There was so much food, the students put on a nativity play that was funny and original and the cookies were phenomenal. I honestly thought today would be so much worse than it was because students were so excited for break but it was an amazing day.

Molly

Jet lag set in, but I was probably most grateful that writing a gratitude journal this morning meant something I could easily check off my to-do list to kickstart getting things done for the day. So meta! But really—normally the day after a red-eye flight can be brutal because it means very little sleep and a seriously grumpy Molly, but today went a lot smoother, and I wonder how much the slight change in perspective had to do with it.  

Mayura

Today we had a holiday party for the teachers in my program, and I’m grateful for such amazing friends who I can laugh and have fun with. I’m also grateful, again, for my students. Maybe it’s the holiday spirit, but this week they’ve just been so amazing and have constantly reminded me why I do this job. Today, three of my most difficult students wrote me Christmas cards in English and Spanish. Definitely saving these forever.

Alanna

I am grateful that I have student loans. I am grateful that I have student loans because that means that I have an education and these loans made me able to obtain my degrees. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to receive student loans because not everyone is eligible. And I am grateful that I had to work so hard in order to get my degrees because they are so much more valuable to me for that fact. I will never waste me degrees because I went through so much in order to get them in the first place. Oh and I am super grateful that Google Maps exists, because I still get lost in this city almost daily.

Day Six

Lauren

I’m so grateful for NyQuil and DayQuil. I caught a cold on Wednesday and have been miserable ever since. These drugs are really helping my quality of life. I’m also so grateful to have such wonderful friends. I got breakfast with a really good friend who I hadn’t seen in a while and she paid for my pancakes. I loved catching up with her and getting to spend time together.

Molly

I realized that this gratitude challenge  is something I definitely have to add in as part of my morning routine. My busy start to the day meant I didn’t get to it until 6PM, at which point I was way more focused on dinner and all the other work that piled up, so my entry was rushed and didn’t leave me feeling quite as optimistic and fulfilled. Still, I came back downstairs to my group of people feeling just a little bit less harried—maybe because I ticked off a to-do item, but I think it was because I’d taken a minute to focus on the positive.

Mayura

Once again, thankful for FRIENDS. I had to teach Saturday School this morning – which was rough after the holiday party last night. However, after work I had brunch and hung out with friends in Deep Ellum (a neighborhood in Dallas) all day. I met new people and spent the whole day laughing and running around outside, even though the temperature dropped from 75 degrees to 20 degrees in the span of three hours.

Alanna

I’m grateful for technology and group chat. I’ve had the privilege of living in seven different places in the past seven years, so it can be really hard to keep up with friends living all over the country. However,  I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to live in so many places and meet all kinds of  people. Group chats with friends from all over keep the love going. It’s nice to know that you have people rooting for you from across the country or even across an ocean.

Day Seven

Lauren

I’m grateful for the community I live in—both my housemates and the physical neighborhood we live in. There’s so much within walking distance and my housemates are so fun and supportive. Netflix was a lifesaver today, I was in bed sick and I was so grateful to have constant entertainment. I’m really glad the public library in Richmond uses Overdrive so I can check out books to my Kindle from my bed, it’s made this week of being sick so much better and it’ll make traveling home easier because I won’t have to pack a ton of books.

Molly

Phew! Back on track, and realized that this is actually a habit that does make me feel a lot happier. Who would have thought? It also made me think about little stuff I was thankful for—especially since a later-in-the-day post the night before meant I’d covered the big points, and in the morning, I was trying to come up with a few gems. Fries played heavily into this one, but when in Belgium…

Mayura

Grateful that this upcoming week at work is just district testing, because usually on Sundays I’d have to be frantically getting my lesson plans together or catching up on grading. However, today I got to wake up late, take time to clean my apartment and make extra nice meals for myself. Also grateful that Texans can be babies about the cold—the Sunday School I teach got cancelled for “inclement weather”, even though there’s no snow or rain. It’s just 20 degrees outside. Sure, not a real reason to cancel (at least for someone from the East Coast, like me), but it allowed me to sleep in on my Sunday morning.

Alanna

I’m grateful for all of my friends that support me writing for this magazine. I’ve had so many wonderful colleagues reading and sharing my articles, it keeps me inspired and encourages me to keep writing. Beyond that, they inspire me to write the articles that I do. My baby sister suffers from Lyme disease, which encouraged  me to dig deeper into the disease and learn more about how it is portrayed in North America. My badass lady friends inspired me to research Shine theory and the Riot Grrrls. I’m grateful that I have such a supportive group that provide me with relevant topics to write about. And I’m thankful for Literally, Darling. This community of writers and readers is always encouraging, incredibly creative, and full of girl power.  

In conclusion…

Lauren

This exercise was hard for me, I’m very cynical and this reminded me to see the positives, no matter how small. It also helped cheer me up even in the midst of some pretty tough days. Since I already track my little victories in my bullet journal, I think keeping a gratitude log might get repetitive but it’s definitely worth a try, especially if you have trouble finding the silver linings.

Molly

I’ve journaled a ton in the past, but since I write for a living, I fell off the personal-journaling bandwagon a while back. So this was a nice exercise in bringing back taking a minute to jot down a few thoughts about the day, and the forced-positivity of a gratitude journal kept me thinking optimistically, as opposed to using the journal to vent and make it a negative experience. I don’t know that I’ll stick to gratitude journaling, exactly, but I do think I’ll keep the habit of taking a couple minutes to write about my day—hopefully keeping that positive slant!

Mayura

I journal every day, but oftentimes when I journal it ends up being a list of complaints. This week, by doing this gratitude log, I forced myself to focus on the positive, and it honestly improved my mood both in my professional and personal life. It also reminded me not to sweat the small stuff. I plan on continuing this in the new year—hopefully it’ll last longer than most of my resolutions.

Alanna

I’ve really enjoyed this week; I feel like taking the time everyday to write down a few things that I am grateful for really helped me stay positive and not spiral down a hole of pessimism. I plan on keeping this strategy in mind and whenever I am feeling super stressed, writing down a few things that I am grateful for.

What are you feeling grateful for these days? Let us know in the comments below or tweet @litdarling!

Featured image: Johnson Wang

Lauren Gustafson

Lauren is a Virginia native and graduate of the University of Mary Washington where she majored in English. She reads passionately, bakes occasionally, and loves rugby. Lauren has spent multiple summers supervising children at overnight camps and she is a pro at dealing with awkward and inappropriate questions. Her goals in life include: being a crazy book lady, living on her own, and traveling any chance she gets.
Lauren Gustafson
%d bloggers like this: