I watched an old episode of the Oprah Winfrey show over the weekend. I love Oprah. Each time I watch her show, I end up feeling warmer, happier, smarter, more inspired than I did before. Unlike so much of the ridiculously dysfunctional "reality" TV that's on nowadays, Oprah's show - and her new network OWN - is 'feel-good-TV' that I truly enjoy.
The episode that I watched on Sunday was about gratitude. She explained that years ago she started keeping a Gratitude Journal. In it, she writes daily about the things she's most thankful for. The entries range from the simple things (like a good meal) to the important stuff (like her true friends). She had experts and guests on the panel who also practiced keeping a Gratitude Journal, and each of them spoke about how the joy in their lives has increased as a result.
It made me think about all the negativity that people are drenched in these days. Log on to Twitter, Facebook or any social network and you'll see more "woe is me" lamentations than you can stand! Or look around your circle of friends and family and count how many people are sad, mad, and feeling bad. In fact, just sit in any public place and LISTEN to those around you. Count how many negative comments you hear in a twenty minute timeframe. You'll be astounded by the number of negative comments you'll hear. People are so bitter, angry, frustrated and defeated that it can drain the energy of those of us around them.
Oprah's advice was simple. Sit down and choose five things each day that you're grateful for and write them down. "Today, I'm grateful for..." She insists that your joy will increase, and that by focusing on the good things that you DO have, you will attract MORE goodness to your life. We spend so much of our life on the move, so much time processing bad news or dealing with crises that we often forget to stop and say "THANK YOU" to The Creator for the things that we do have.
I couldn't wait to get started! On Monday I ran out and bought myself a spiffy new journal. I'm a true "geek", so I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE things like new pens, colorful Post-It Notes in fun shapes, or a new notebook. Getting my Gratitude Journal was so exciting that I practically skipped into the stationery store! I was faced with so many delicious choices - pale pink to celebrate my femininity; powder blue to soothe my spirit; a rich green that happens to be my favorite color; one with a Bible scripture on every page; one that was brown, a homage to my last name; a leather black one with a flap - the choices were endless! I finally decided on a watermelon-hued one that would look bright and cheery alongside the journals that I already have - my diary, my book club journals, and my prayer journal. Excited, I could hardly wait until I got on the train to start writing!
I wrote way more than five things! "Today I'm grateful for...catching the 8:30 ferry, even though I was running late...my girlfriend Darnell who gives me GREAT advice...for Dunkin Donuts caramel coffee...for my DVR...for cute shoes...for living in New York...for Oprah Winfrey..." By the time I got finished expressing gratitude for all of my blessings great and small, I was not only amazed by how many things there were to list, but I felt happier than I was when I started. I could hardly wait to see what the next day would present as a reason to be thankful.
I have a girlfriend, Chandra, who I refer to as "Polly Positive". She is always looking on the bright side of things - always. There have been times when I was annoyed by someone's pot-stirring, or by someone's negativity and she would always remind me, "Stop bothering with all that nonsense. You're bigger than that, Tracy Brown." I would often roll my eyes and shake my head at Polly Positive and her constantly sunny disposition. After all, when people get under our skin, who doesn't want to allow themselves a few moments of outrage?!? But since I began to distance myself from the negative people and things that once surrounded me, I am beginning to see that there is something truly magnificent about choosing joy over drama. Your whole life takes on a new perspective when you press the mute button on negativity and turn up the volume on happiness. The Gratitude Journal reinforces that. Polly Positive was onto something, after all!
I am only a few days into my journey with my Gratitude Journal. But, I can already testify to its merits. I realize how many of the "little things" I've overlooked. Sure, I give thanks every morning and night about the BIG things - my family, my health, my home, my career, etc. But God wants to know that we appreciate the sunset He painted across the sky, the breeze He blew across our faces, the good hair days, the tea we like, and the simple things that make our hearts sing. Since I started chronicling my thankfulness, I've found more and more reasons to be grateful. Oprah ain't getting the big bucks for nothing! The woman is definitely brilliant, and I'm glad that I took her advice. It's taught me how to open the door in my life to to even more joy than I was already experiencing. And for that, and many other things, I am truly grateful!