There was a period in my life that wasn’t pretty. I was going through some things. It may not have shown on the outside, but inside, my emotions were raging. I felt lost, unsure of my ability to make decisions about myself and my future. I didn’t understand why it seemed like other people had so much going for them and I still felt like I was struggling to find my place in the world. I wasn’t happy with my job, wasn’t happy with my outward appearance (I wanted to lose weight and was frustrated that I didn’t seem to be able to stick with any real plan), and was smack-dab in the middle of a very tumultuous romantic “relationship”. (I put relationship in quotation marks because, in actuality, it was never confirmed that we were IN a relationship, but we were definitely more than friends. Precisely why the “relationship” was described as tumultuous.) More than anything, I just wanted to be happy, but true genuine happiness seemed to elude me.
But then, in a conversation with my parents, one of them (I can’t remember which one!) said something profound. My parent said “Did you know that happiness is a choice? You can CHOOSE to be happy.” Well, that turned my world upside down. It was so simple, yet life-altering. You mean, I could be happy just by making the choice to be happy? So did that mean that all this time I’d been choosing NOT to be happy? Why would I do that? Why would ANYONE do that?
Well, if all I had to do was CHOOSE to be happy, then I’d get started right away. It was then that I decided to begin my Happiness Project. The Project was uber-simple. No matter my circumstances, I would just choose to be happy. I tried it out for one day just to see how things would turn out… and it worked! So, I kept trying it and… surprise, surprise – it kept on working! To quote a clichéd proverb, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.” Now, there are a lot of ways to interpret this quote, but the way I see it is like this: always think of the glass as half-full. Your outlook on life can literally change your circumstances. Instead of seeing stuff as happening TO you, think of stuff as happening FOR you. That means even if things aren’t going your way, it’s for a reason. And that reason is meant to benefit you in some way.
It was during this time that I noticed a Facebook friend of mine – one of the few Facebook friends that I haven’t ever met in person – faithfully completed a daily exercise expressing gratitude for 5 things that she experienced every day. She called it her “5 Grateful Things” and it’s how she signs-off Facebook for the day. So many of us focus on all the things that went WRONG in a day. In essence, we make it a habit to have a “pity party” everyday. But what would happen if, instead, we focused on all the things that went RIGHT in a day? Sometimes, we focus so steadily on the negative parts of our day, we don’t realize that something – even the most infinitesimal thing – went right! With that in mind, I decided that rather than having a “pity party”, I’d have a “gratitude party” and give thanks for everything that went right for me in that day. So, picking up where my Facebook friend left off, I began to post 5 things for which I was grateful each day. Being grateful is a great way to end (or to start!) the day. It reminded me of how blessed I really am. And it was probably the most significant and effective aspect of my Happiness Project.
At some point, I stopped the Gratitude Parties. I don’t remember why, but I did. But my Facebook friend kept going with hers. Everyday I’d see hers and think I should start again. I decided maybe I didn’t need to write them anymore, but I’d just have them in my head at night before I went to bed. Then, during the holidays, one of my cousins – who also happens to be my Facebook friend – said that she missed reading my 5 grateful things. I was so touched that she had even noticed that I was writing them, and that I had stopped. Maybe my expression of gratitude brought something to other people. Maybe I’d found a way to use Facebook for good instead of for evil (as so many people do). So I made a vow that I’d have Gratitude Parties more regularly in 2012.
On Facebook, my Gratitude Parties are concise. After all, Facebook statuses are not blogs and nobody is trying to read the details of my Gratitude Parties. So, I keep them short and sweet for Facebook, and expand on them a bit here. I hope you enjoy reading about the things for which I’m grateful. And I hope you consider having your own Gratitude Party… because – no matter our circumstances – we all have something for which to be grateful.
Happy New Year!