Bring “light” into your life one thank you at a time.

I’ve been studying the correlation between feeling gratitude AND our overall level of happiness for a while. 

On a recent podcast, I heard journalist and author A. J. Jacobs talk about his latest book Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, which chronicles his journey around the world as he thanks EVERYONE (1000 people) involved in making his morning coffee. Including the people who pick up the coffee beans, the person who designed the packaging logo, the truck driver who transported the coffee beans and the person who painted the yellow lines on the road so the truck wouldn’t veer into traffic.

Wow. Suddenly, I started to see a lot more depth in all the things I am consuming — how many people are involved in creating my MacBook Air? Or the latest Brené Brown book I am reading? 

There is so much that I/we take for granted. But what could happen if I started to appreciate everything around me? 

When I moved to Miami 3 months ago, I had a very rough landing— new space, no furniture, too much work, kids at home (no school yet). I went out for lunch with a dear friend and she told me “you know what is the secret of it all…. Gratitude”. It is IMPOSIBLE to be angry or mad when you feel grateful. Gratitude is pure “light” and there can’t be darkness when there’s light. 

Mmm… that was interesting. So I started to experiment. I would combat my negative thoughts “the kids are driving me crazy” to “I am thankful that Lucas is sweet to his sister” etc, etc, etc. 

This doesn’t mean I want to disregard the “negative thoughts” — they offer lots of useful information about what I want, plus it’s natural to be angry. But I really dislike the sensation of anger/frustration in my body. So if there’s a way to alleviate that, yes, I’ll try it out.

I soon realized that being in a “grateful” mindset requires constant effort. It is so easy to slip into comparison mode or to focus on everything that is missing, instead of everything that is present. Yet I continued training my mind, one appreciation at a time. 

On a Business Insider’s article, life coach super star Tony Robbins talks about how being grateful makes us more “attractive people.” When you are generous, loving and warm,  “people love to be around you.” According to Robbins, most people are upset “because their expectations aren't met”.  So he recommends to “trade your expectations for appreciation” in order to live happier, fuller lives. 

One of Harvard’s most popular classes ever, was a course on Positive Psychology thought by Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar back in 2006. During the duration of the course, students where required to keep a “gratitude journal” where they would write 3 things they were grateful for that day. 

Speaker and author Daniella LaPorte has a wonderful addition to this lovely ritual. To deepen our appreciation and increase our awareness around why we truly appreciate something, LaPorte suggests describing WHY you are grateful. So instead of saying “I am thankful that Lucas is sweet to his sister” I would say “I am thankful that Lucas is sweet to his sister because that helps create a strong loving bond between them.”  

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I started a mini gratitude project—14 days of saying thanks to some of the people that have most impacted my journey. So far it’s been a good exercise in keeping me connected and appreciative for all the good things in my life. I have noticed that each time I say thanks, I get a boost in my mood and more “light” comes into my life. 

At the moment, anywhere I look there’s something to be grateful for. And today, I am very grateful to you because you make me feel accountable to my writing, because you give meaning to my words. Thank you for reading.  

Veronica Marquez