Showing Gratitude

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses” -Abraham Lincoln

As unlucky as I feel right now, sitting in bed on a warm, cloudless Sunday with half my face swollen like a water balloon from my recent wisdom tooth extraction (yes, another one), I felt compelled to write this post about gratitude and how I have chosen to express it lately. Sometimes I feel as if I let myself get so wrapped up in the little things that bother me that I overlook all of the amazing things that happen to me every day. To remedy this, I have started what I call a “gratitude journal.” Every night before I go to sleep, I make a list of what I am grateful for that day–whether it be people who had a positive impact on me in any little way, serendipitous moments that made me smile, or just general things that I feel lucky to have. Writing all this down turns my gratitude into a visual representation that I can look back on when I am feeling low, and also forces me to think about my day through a more positive, appreciative lens. I feel like we normally tend to dwell on the unfavorable things that happen to us, allowing the happy moments to be pushed to the side, especially in the thought-charged moments before sleep. Writing down everything I am grateful for reverses this mentality, and I have found that I am even more focused on these things throughout the day, thinking “I should put that in my gratitude journal” when something good happens, instead of just immediately forgetting about it like I may have in the past. So, in that way, it has also helped to improve my mindfulness. This small addition to my routine has become something I look forward to daily, and has had a more noticeable impact on my emotional health that I could have expected. Even if I have had a horrible day, and have to comb my brain to think about one thing that I am grateful for, it helps to reroute my thinking away from the negative and to the bigger picture, which is that I am so lucky to be living such a beautiful city, with so many beautiful things happening to me every day.

Some of the things that have made it into my gratitude journal include:

  • The sunshine (duh)
  • Podcasts (namely, Stuff You Should Know and TED Talks)
  • 2€ bocadillos from the bakery across the street
  • Chai Tea Lattes from Starbucks (you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the basic out of the girl)
  • Fresh fruit & veggies
  • My mama
  • The nice man at the relojería who changed my watch battery for 4€
  • La Baronesa café (and the waiters and waitresses at La Baronesa café)
  • Exciting weekend plans
  • Being awake for my favorite time of day (fun fact: I am a contradiction in the sense that my favorite time of day is early morning, but I also love to sleep, so I rarely am ever awake for that time. Sad)
  • Young & Free playlist on Spotify (check it out)
  • Sunscreen (see first bullet)
  • Smiles from strangers
  • Sitting by the Guadalquivir river
  • Netflix
  • Class cancellations when I really don’t feel like teaching
  • Warm breezes
  • Having the apartment to myself (never realized how much of a gift this was until I spent a few months living with small children)

These are only a few among many, but even transcribing them here makes me realize how much I have to be grateful for. I would definitely recommend a gratitude journal to anyone looking to increase their mindfulness and find inner peace and satisfaction. No matter what point you’re at in your life, there is always something to be grateful for, you just need to look for it.

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