30 Days of Gratitude Challenge: Week 2
The first week of our 30 days of gratitude challenge has come to a close and our new week is beginning. Before we delve into the next three challenges, I think we should review how last week went. (Look back at last week's challenges here.)
Did you find it difficult to complete the challenges? Did you, like me, manage a few days of writing down what you're grateful for and then the intention just drifted away and never got done for the rest of the days? Did you find it difficult to keep the challenges in your mind so you were ready to say "thank you" in a meaningful way when the moment came? Did you remember to take a noticing walk (and remember to notice things once you got walking)?
If you didn't do it all you're not alone, and it's perfectly okay. Adding something to your life is hard. Changing the way you view the world and your place in it is really hard. It's okay to falter as you get going. What's important is that you're trying and that when you look at the big picture you're moving in a positive direction.
Now, let's look at the next three challenges that will help move you along in that positive direction. Keep in mind that these three new challenges don't have to replace the previous three, instead you should look at them as cumulative. Continue with the practices you enjoy, try to do ones you didn't get to last week, and continue to look for opportunities to practice what you didn't have the chance to yet. Discard the ones you've tried that don't resonate with you and embrace the ones that do.
This is a very simple idea with really powerful results. Words are very powerful. Last week we discussed how the words "thank you" often become reflex without meaning. Well, guess what? "Sorry" is a reflex word too. When used reflexively it can convey "I'm ashamed" or "I'm not worth your time" and other self-deprecating feelings. It can tell others that it's okay to feel like we are not worth their time and encourage their annoyance at us for being late.
A simple way to flip the script is to say, "thank you" instead.
"Thank you for waiting for me," conveys to the people waiting that they have done something worthwhile. It also conveys that you are acknowledging their time and patience without telling them that you weren't really worth the wait in the first place. It's a win-win.
This is a bigger struggle for some of us than you'd think at first glance. If you struggle to stop the "sorry" reflex you can always follow it immediately with a thank you. "Sorry I'm late, thank you for waiting for me," is a great stepping stone as you change your unconscious reflex into conscious and meaningful words.
A random act of kindness is when you do something that no one expects you to do, but you do it anyway just because it's kind. It's purpose is not recognition or thanks. It's purpose is simply for you to do something kind. During the age of Covid it might feel harder to find times to do this because we just aren't interacting with as many people as normal. However, you can find ways to be kind within your own home, with your family, with your neighbors, with your friends and co-workers.
Don't overthink this one. Just keep your eyes open for opportunities! Even saying hello can be an act of kindness. Wave to your mail-carrier this week. Tell the clerk at the check out line, "thank you" (and really mean it!). Move your dad's glasses to a safer spot where he'll actually be able to find them later. Do a chore you don't usually do just because it needs to be done.
Simply the act of being on the lookout for ways to be kind is important. Practicing gratitude includes practicing being kind to others, and to yourself.
Ah, self-expression, such an elusive idea. When I hear the term I automatically think of artistic expression: drawing, painting, dancing, songwriting, and so on. Maybe one of those things appeals to you immediately. If that's the case, then skip the rest of this section and get expressing! However, artistic expression can feel really intimidating to others. Let me lay a little truth-bomb on you right now: EVERYTHING IS ART. Seriously. It can be the way that you cook, the way that your stack your folded laundry, the pattern in which you rake the leaves from your lawn or vacuum the carpet. Even just talking to a friend about your day is artistic expression through words.
What we're looking for this week is some way to express yourself that maybe you've set aside as new responsibilities took up your time, a purposeful practice of something you already do, or a completely new way to express yourself that you haven't discovered yet! The most important part of this challenge is to think about who you are and what makes you feel like your authentic self (as opposed to the self that you present to the world because you think that's what the world wants to see).
Here are some questions to help you think of ideas:
- Who do you look up to? Why?
- Was there an activity you used to do that you enjoyed, but that you set aside because you had too many other responsibilities to focus on?
- Is there something you've always wanted to try, but haven't for any number of reasons (time, fear of failure, fear of judgement, accessibility)?
- Do you have a passion that you could expand on?
- What makes you happy?
Below are some more examples of ways to express yourself, but as you read don't let this list limit you-- there are innumerable ways for you to express yourself. It doesn't have to come from a list that someone else created.
Here are some possible ways to express yourself:
- Write in a journal (FYI we've already been doing that with last week's challenge-you're already there!)
- Talk to someone about your thoughts, feelings, or the events of the day.
- Sing (anywhere, the kitchen, the car, in a Facebook live video-- whatever makes you feel like YOU)
- Draw, paint, make a collage, make a sculpture
- Take pictures
- Create or improve something (put up shelves, mend clothing, invent a new recipe or improve on an old one, etc)
- Go for a walk or a run
- Sit and do nothing but think (when was the last time you just did nothing?)
And there you have it. Three challenges to help you practice gratitude. Three little steps to help you live a happier, healthier life.
Let me tell you a little secret about this challenge: It's not actually meant to only last 30 days.
This challenge is about beginning a practice that can bring more joy and peace to your life. It's not about being perfect for 30 days, it's about changing the way you think about yourself and your life. It's about opening our eyes to the good things all around us.
You're already taking the first steps just by reading and thinking about gratitude and ways to practice it!
Enjoy your week.