Because that used to be my reaction.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have a lot of things to be grateful for, or that I didn’t think that it was good to maintain perspective of the better parts of life when things were particularly bad. Those were all very important to me. But actually writing it down? Why bother?
Now, after a couple of weeks of doing it, I’m here to tell you that there is a big difference between saying ‘I’m grateful for this thing’ and taking the minute or two to actually acknowledge it with pen and paper. Not only are you bringing yourself fully into the present of the realization, but you’re also face to face with all the things you’ve named prior to that.
You can say how thankful you are to have friends until you’re blue in the face. But you’re not going to write down ‘friends’ seven times in a week. Suddenly you get a chance to consider which specific friends are a crucial, wonderful part of your life. You find yourself realizing what it is about the people around you that lights up your day to day existence.
It doesn’t take long. A minute or two tops. But it makes as much of a difference as saying “I like to bake” and actually cooking a dozen cookies.
It’s magic. Try it. Even just for a week. You don’t need a super special journal or an expensive pen. Just take an index card and update it every day with the things that make you stop and go, “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have ___.” Give it a shot. I dare you.
When I was in college, I was vehemently anti-bra.
Not living at home meant I could treat my body the way I wanted. In addition to a steady diet of cheese fries with honey mustard at least four times per week, this meant no restraining bosom barricade. No underwire, no elastic, no duct tape and padding. Nope. The ta-tas were free to take on the world unencumbered. This was so true that it’s become a running joke with many of my college friends:
Me: Have I really changed so much?
Them: Well, you definitely wear underwear more than you used to.
Me: What kind of monster have I become?
Bras were strictly on an as-needed basis, which was pretty much work only. If I was heading out of my apartment on official business (such as when I was being paid for it), I had to apologize to the Captain and Tennille and don the garment of doom.
Fast forward to present. Time and gravity have taught me there is something to be said for having a bit of extra help in the chest area. I’ve also started working from home for my day job, however, and being in pajamas = viva la nipple. Thanks to my college years, I’ve learned that putting a bra on is all I need to trigger my mind into understanding, “Okay, now we’re facing the world. Serious business. Go.” It’s like a super hero cape. A cuppy cape, if you will.
Realizing what daily rituals will flip your switch can be really helpful for knowing how to get yourself to do things other than staying comfortable and unchallenged. Studies have shown that you can create a habit by maintaining a cause and effect. For instance, putting your walking shoes on immediately after stepping away from your work desk can trigger your mind to go outside and get some air. For me, strapping in Harold and Kumar triggers that I am setting out to do work and get stuff done.
What kind of daily rituals work for you? Try a little change and see how it can affect you.
Put your bra on. I dare you.
1. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That’s a long time, but you have to start somewhere. This is that starting point for me.
2. I’m using a super fun app called “HabitRPG.” It makes a game out of getting stuff done that you are trying to form into habits and daily tasks. You earn money and buy items for your character as you complete things, but on the other side of that, if you fail at finishing tasks, you could die. Very fun and surprisingly effective!
3. I had a moment of clarity a few minutes ago: when approaching your daily, weekly, monthly, etc. goals, you should think of them the way you would think about a life list or an agenda for a trip. If you’re going to NYC, you’re obviously not just going to put down “Visit a museum,” right? You would look at which museum is most interesting to you, the hours, the cost and so on.
4. SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.
5. Something is better than nothing. I recently read on “The Happiness Project” blog the following mantra: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It means that you shouldn’t put off doing things because you are not in the exact frame of mind/place to do something or have the perfect conditions. The example used is “the 20-minute walk I take is better than the 3-mile run I never start.” I got a lot out of this one, simple phrase.
How do you feel about habits?