In March of 2015, a good friend and colleague challenged me to try something new for 21 days. After running the gamut of old standbys I knew I wouldn’t follow through on, I decided to try something completely different.
Admittedly, I didn’t really expect much to come of the challenge I gave myself. And, if I am to be completely honest – I would have to admit it was more of a token response than a serious effort to change anything.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done for myself!
Here’s what happened:
- My depression lifted (I’ve struggled with depression all my life).
- My physical pain decreased (I’ve lived with chronic pain since my early 20’s).
- I started to sleep through the night for the first time in more years than I can remember.
- My physical appearance changed – my skin became healthier; I shed pounds; I stood taller…
- I found the impetus I needed to make changes in my life I had been putting off forever.
- I gained more energy and vitality.
- People liked me more.
- I liked myself more.
- My thinking became clearer.
- I began to experience successes that had eluded me for years.
- My entire perspective transformed into one that was more positive, appreciative and optimistic.
- Life in general became really, really good.
All this in less than a month, and in under 5 minutes per day!
Here’s what I did:
Every day, for 21 consecutive days, I took 5 minutes of my time, and wrote down 3 things I was grateful for. Only three. No more, and no less.
Seriously. That’s it!
Sometimes, my gratitudes were as simple as ‘the amazing cup of coffee I had at breakfast’. Sometimes they were deeper and more complex. Either way, I tried to make note of why I appreciated what I was grateful for, as well as what it was.
Here’s what it looked like:
Today’s Gratitudes: The beautiful frost that is covering everything in glittering diamonds of cold; Some time by myself to watch a show I’ve been looking forward to catching up on; Some more time by myself to work on a creative project…
Here’s how it worked:
I always posted at night so I could reflect back on my day. Even when I had a crummy day, I had to look back and find at least 3 things I could be grateful for. It was definitely easier on the good days, but over time, I started to see that if I made the effort, I could always find some gems in there somewhere. I also started to see that the more I engaged with my gratitudes, the less often I experienced crummy days! Recording my gratitudes at night also ensured that I always went to bed in a positive state of mind, setting the tone for both my sleep and my waking.
Pretty soon, I found that I actually started to look for things I could include in my list. I started noticing this little voice in my head happily chirping “Oh, this can go on my list!” and cheering me on as I went about my day. This had the awesome effect of inspiring me to see my entire life in a very different way. I began to take less and less for granted. I began to focus more and more on what was good and positive. I began to consciously choose what I was paying attention to.
Once a week, I would put all of my gratitudes together in a single post for my blog. This was a bit of an add-on, but it came to be one of my favorite parts of the practice. There was something about seeing my gratitudes all together like that – it really made me understand how much joy was always available in my life – if I made it a point to notice. It made me take the time to appreciate subtleties, nuances and moments. It made me see beauty in places I had forgotten to look.
When I started my practice, I decided to post on my Facebook Page, so I would have an accountability partner of sorts. I used nicknames instead of real names if I spoke of anyone other than myself, and always kept it kind, clean, and respectful. It was great. You should have seen what I woke up to the morning after I missed a day due to technical difficulties. The accountability thing really worked!
Here’s what happened when I stopped:
At the end of my 21 Day Gratitude Challenge, I decided to keep going. My practice reached nearly 30 weeks of daily gratitudes before I stopped! It was around day 205 that I was visiting my daughter in her college dorm, where the wifi reception was so bad I couldn’t get online to post my gratitudes. For some reason, I decided to just let it go. I didn’t even bother to write them down in a journal. I just quit. At the time, I told myself I would pick it up again when I got home. I did make a few intermittent efforts to do so, but it just didn’t stick. The love affair was over, and I suppose I hoped I could just continue to ride the wave into the sunset.
Apparently, it doesn’t work that way!
Within a couple of weeks, I started to notice that I was feeling ‘heavier’ again. My moods started to slide, and my sleep disruptions kicked back in. I started to gain weight. Not a lot, but enough that I noticed. My skin started to lose its colour, and I even had a breakout or two. I started feeling increasingly impatient with things and people. My perspective started to shift and life began to take on a familiar grey hue. Granted, I still felt way better than I had before I began this practice, so not all was lost. But the thing about feeling bad for a really long time is that you don’t even know how bad you feel until you feel better. And once you feel better – you don’t ever want to go back!
As fate would have it, I was inspired by a client to pick up my gratitude practice once more. When they decided to embark on a 21 Day Gratitude Challenge of their own, I offered to act as an accountability partner, and for the last 33 days, we have been sharing our gratitudes via email, every night. And guess what… As soon as I started the practice again, I immediately experienced the same relief and improvements in my moods, health, and perspective! It’s awesome!!
Here’s how you can do it too:
My 21 Day Gratitude Challenge has profoundly changed my life. I literally feel like a different person, in a hundred positive ways. I’ve been so affected by it, that I have made it my goal to inspire as many people as possible to join in the fun! Since I have personally experienced the benefits of having accountability partners, as well as the added joy of sharing my practice with someone who is doing it too, I thought it would be really cool to create an entire community of people who are sharing their practice and cheering each other on.
If you’d like to change your life in just 5 minutes per day, I would love for you to join me and begin your supported, 21 Day Challenge!
Click here to join: Today’s Gratitudes: 21 Day Challenge!
Invite your friends! Invite your family! And let’s get started…
Change your focus… Change your life!
*Note: This article describes the personal experience of the author and is not meant to be used as medical advice, or as a substitute for necessary medical or psychological care.