My Ex-Girlfriend Is A @*&#! - Getting From Blame to Gratitude

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Warning, disclaimer! I’m going say some things and use a couple words in this article that might offend you. Don’t keep reading if you’re not up for it. Really. Stop right now. There’ll be another piece about gratitude that you can read and it probably won’t offend you at all. You can read that one instead. With that said, the reason you’re reading these words is because my friend Nate Bagley has asked me to create a piece for his 30 day Gratitude Challenge. For those of you who don’t know Nate personally I’d like to fill you in. Nate is an amazing man. The moment I met him, Christmas of 2013, I knew there was something special about him.

It wasn’t just because of his backstory, the fact that he’d hit the road to seek out, document, and share powerfully beautiful hopeful stories of love from across the United States. Neither was it the fact that my sister had a crush on him, so therefore he must be a pretty cool dude.

It was his presence. When I spoke to him he was there with me. His voice is solid and clear. He knows the work he’s doing is powerful and he owns it. When I asked him how much amazingness was possible within a relationship (having been wondering this to myself for quite a while) he responded, with no trace of hesitation, “Amazing, incredible relationships are possible. They’re real. Let me tell you a story…”

Knowing Nate has profoundly impacted my work and life. He’s inspired me to take bold steps forward and I’m so grateful to know him. I hope one day you’ll get to meet him too.

Oh, and if you didn’t know, Nate is creating a Love Coaching practice. Nate is a love expert. He’s interviewed hundreds of couples across the US and I know for a fact that his work has already impacted the lives of many, many people, whether single, dating, partnered, whatever. This man is doing amazing work. Marriages will be healed, parties will be thrown, and lots of really amazing sex will be had. You can see if coaching with Nate will be a good fit by taking this quick survey. I’m so stoked that he’s stepping it up and offering this service to individuals and couples. So stoked.

So… a piece about gratitude. Where should I even start?

I think I’ll start by telling you what’s true for me in this moment.

I’m on a bus.

Powerful, right?

Ok, there's more to it than that. At this very moment I’m leaving the house I’ve been in for 10 years and the city where I’ve lived for 12.

I realized last night just how much I’ve grown during the time I’ve been here. When I arrived I was in the midst of a powerful depression. I was suicidal, shut down, and almost totally disconnected from my sense of self-power. I was a shell of a man.

12 years later I’m IN LOVE with my life! I’m present with my experience in each moment. I’m in touch with my body. It’s my guide and the more fully I allow myself to feel all that there is to feel the better my life gets. I’m engaged in passionate romantic relationships with amazing women. These relationships are honest, emotionally clean, communicative, and quite free of expectation. I smile lots and laugh deep, resonant laughs that come out from my belly and fill up my whole body. I’m doing powerfully healing work. The kind I’d be doing even if I didn’t get paid for it. I choose my schedule and I choose to work with inspiring, authentically powerful clients.

I’m really, really happy.

And the best part of it all is that I know I get to be even happier. I choose not to limit my happiness. I get to have as much of it as I decide I’m worth having!

I’d like to tell you a piece of my story, a pivotal component of my transformation from empty and suicidal to deeply fulfilled.

This story begins with an ending. What ended was a relationship. We were together for about 2 1/4 years. We split up a while back.

And you know what? I’m still kind of pissed off at her. And when I say “kind of” it probably means “really”.

You see, I have an anger problem. It’s not the kind you’re thinking about. It’s the kind where I can’t tell when I’m angry and instead cover up how I really feel and end up people pleasing, wallowing in indecisiveness, and passive-aggressing (yes, I just made that into a verb).

So anyway, I’m really pissed at her. I think about all the times she got so angry at me for practically nothing. She yelled at me, she threw tantrums, she wouldn’t let me out of conversations that I didn’t want to be in. She was the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met. Really. I can’t even count the number of times she practically turned around and did the same thing she just got done throwing a fit at me for doing.

Our relationship felt like a shit show about half the time. She pushed my buttons, expected me not to push hers, and then expected me to calm her down when I failed at that.

She was bossy, demanding, overly self confident, irrational when upset, and unappreciative.

She was an asshole.

I’ve used the word “bitch” before, in confidential counseling sessions. I’m absolutely NOT going to use that word here.

And I know I know that your level of respect for me probably just instantly dropped. I know that you’re probably judging me, perhaps heavily, for how I’m judging my ex-girlfriend. And you might be thinking that I’m a misogynistic asshole who walks around slinging sexist slurs at women who rub me the wrong way.

But I’m owning this shit. I am a complex human being. I contradict myself constantly and thoroughly. And this complexity is beautiful. Our rough edges are what give others something, anything, to hold onto. When we’re all smoothed over people try to grasp us, to know us, and we slip away because they have nothing to hold onto. There is no room for relationship when vulnerability and shadow are not acknowledged and invited to sit down at the table with all the other guests.

And here’s the turnaround.

The amazing life, career, laughs from deep inside my belly that fill up my chest and my whole body, the amazing relationships I now get to have… all of it I owe to her.

Literally and truly.

I know the changes I make ultimately come from within me, but if it weren’t for her I’d still be partially fulfilled, settling for ok, out of touch with my passion and body, and running the same self defeating emotional patterns that I’d already been running for so many years.

She is the most amazing, present, and (emotionally) intelligent woman I’ve ever been in relationship with. By leagues and by miles.

And know that I use the word “woman” very intentionally. Because she is. She is a brilliant example of what it means to be a woman who leans into and owns her personal power.

This is really what hooked me in the first place. It wasn’t the fact that she was and still is a total hotttie. It wasn’t how well she kissed. It wasn’t how smart she was and is about business. It wasn’t her unique and entrancing sense of style.

In this woman I saw something extremely special. I craved it, from deep inside me. I noticed a fierce anxiety/excitement. What would it mean to bring such a powerful force into my life? My body drew me forward. I had only an inkling of what lay in store for me OR for her.

Relationships occur because we see something in somebody else that we already have inside, but that we’ve lost access to. We see that this person can show us how to get back in touch with the parts that are who we truly are.

Is this THE truth? No. But it’s my truth. At least in this moment. I may change my mind later on…

So I dove in.

Who she was being pushed swiftly and quickly up against my boundaries. Except in so many ways I didn’t consciously know where my boundaries were.

So I dove in some more. I felt the intensity of our passion and the whirlwind of our conflict. I opened up to it. I let it in me.

I consciously chose to make myself available, for the first time in my life, to the full range of experience. Passion. Fury. Contentment. Sadness. Guilt. Joy.

I threw myself into the middle of the ocean with her. Sometimes the seas were calm and pleasant and sometimes they crashed over me unceasingly. I swam confidently in moments and I floundered completely in others.

And now it’s over. We chose to end it. The image that comes to me is of a rock at the shore of the ocean. In some moments the waves murmur and caress the rock. In others they leap up and come crashing fiercely back down upon it. But a rock is a rock and it will not budge, it will only become smoother and more beautiful with time.

I am now that rock. I feel its presence, peace, confidence inside me. Through our relationship I discovered my power, my sense of Who I Truly Am. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful. And I’m so grateful for it all.

This woman is a marvel. She has made some very important choices about who she is being, what kind of life she is living, and what kinds of relationships she is creating. She is really smart. She is in her body.

She is a powerful healer. The work she’s done has DIRECTLY impacted thousands of people. Her friends, customers, and clients are taking the gift that she has offered them and are passing it on to THEIR communities. She’s inspiring. She’s bold. She is unapologetically herself and how she expresses it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Earlier in this piece I told you all the stuff that pissed me off about my ex-girlfriend, this incredible woman. I basically called her a bitch. I told you all the messed up things she did and all the different ways she hurt me.

There’s a secret I want to let you in on. I’m a human animal! I have emotions!

When I believe the thoughts that my fear creates I live from a victim mentality and digging, sexist, hurtful epithets come up and out from inside me.

While it can be useful to express and honor my shadow side I also feel in the center of my being that living from victim and blame is a powerful poison.

I also know, from this place of wisdom-beyond-words, that gratitude is the antidote.

I practice gratitude. And yes, it is a practice. It’s a choice I choose to make over and over and over again. Consciously. My life is beautiful beyond words for it. I have deep relationships with my parents and sisters, deeper still with every passing week. I have strong relationships with my community. Each person means so much to me and I let them know it.

I’ve written notes of appreciation to roommates, sang songs to lovers and friends, spoken or emailed or texted to clients, smiled to strangers, asked genuine questions of curiosity to acquaintances. I have a million different ways of acknowledging and appreciating the person who’s in front of me or on my mind. I make it a practice to notice when I’m feeling appreciative and then to take action and let them know.

Feeling upset today? Call someone up and appreciate them. Write down a list of ways you notice them being and how they’ve impacted your life. Call them up. Read it to them. I can pretty much guarantee that you will both walk away from the conversation with a deepened connection and big smiles on your faces. The world will seem closer to you. The colors will be more vivid. You’ll feel that swelling sense of fulfillment that our bodies yearn for.

Earlier on I told you that this story began with an ending. That’s not really true though. Things aren’t over, nothing’s ended. Things just shifted. We stopped holding on to our stories about who the other person was or might be. In this moment I don’t know exactly what she and I are or what we’re doing, but it IS something.

I look forward to what our future together holds. Even if it means we don’t talk. That’s still a choice we make in how we will relate with each other. It’s a relationship still.

See, gratitude/true appreciation, is a continual process of letting go. It’s letting go of the projections that we put onto others and the stories we tell ourselves about what we must settle for or how so and so did us wrong. It’s letting go of the safety patterning that we took on as children, the places where we learned to close off and protect our tender, loving child-hearts.

Gratitude means doing the personal work it takes to open back up. It can be scary. It can make us feel like we’re dying. But I’ve shed and seen shed a lot of tears. I’ve been with others as they shook violently as long-locked emotions poured out of them, sometimes for the first time in their lives. They felt like they would literally die. And they didn’t. The opposite came true. Openness. Power. Peace.

Gratitude is about noticing. It’s paying attention to the thing that attracts you to another and then speaking that truth.

You get to do it with yourself too. It’s noticing just how far you’ve come since 1, 3, 14 years ago and letting in the truth that you are exactly where you ought to be. Know too that there is even better yet to come.

Gratitude is about curiosity. It’s a yearning to know yourself and others more deeply and intimately than you currently do.

Gratitude is simple. All it takes is a few words, a loving touch, or an act of kindness.

Gratitude is a practice. That means you do it once. And then another time. And then another time. Each time you do it you get better at it. That’s what happens when we practice things.

Gratitude is powerful. It has already and will continue to change your own and your loved ones’ lives.

Here, I’ll model:

Thank you for being with me through the end of this piece. I probably don’t know you and you probably don’t know me (yet), but the fact that you’re here means that we share a connection. There’s something that draws us closer together. It’s special and I am so honored to share this connection with you. I’ve shared extremely vulnerably with you. Thank you so much for honoring my vulnerability.

That you’re connected with The Loveumentary means you’re on the path. It’s happening right now. I want to let you know that I notice this in you.

You’re beautiful.

Thank you.

My bus ride is almost over. My new life is just around the corner. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

And one more time, thank you. With love, Bob Schwenkler

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] If you’d like to learn more about Bob and the work he does in supporting authentically powerful and loving men in living fully on-purpose and passionate lives please visit his website at bobschwenkler.com. (This is Nate now: Seriously people, Bob has been an amazing coach to me, and has helped me grow in ways I never thought I would. I am more authentically myself because of him. Get to know this man.) Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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Curiosity + Gratitude = Joyful Authentic Connection

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Someone: “You were right.” Me: “I’m sorry, what was that? I couldn’t quite hear you...”

Someone: “You were right.”

Me: “Oh, I was RIIIIIIGHT!” *insert condescending chuckle here*I told you so. Never doubt me.”

Have you ever said, “I told you so” to someone? Did you feel totally validated and in-your-face-victorious! after you said it? I certainly have and I certainly did. Up until a few years ago, I used to REALLY relish being right, and I also loved rubbing people’s noses in my right-ness. I thought that “proving my worth” to people via being right would mean that I was worth something...that I was worth loving...and I was gravely mistaken in that belief.

Worthiness is not tied to right-ness. Because I doubted my worthiness, I attempted to prove it to people by being right. I didn’t see that my strong desire to be right [read: externally validated] was actually just pushing people away.

Everyone on the planet is born worthy of love and remains worthy of love for the entirety of their life. I have finally embraced this as a fact, and as a result, my whole outlook on life has changed. Instead of attempting to prove my worthiness through being right, I now stick to choosing love and letting things go. I don’t verbally fight to the death over things that don’t matter anymore [and here’s a secret: most of the stuff I used to fight to the death over didn’t really matter to begin with!].

This has completely changed my relationship with my husband, Eric. I used to think that there was only ONE way to do everything: MY WAY. My way was obviously the most efficient and logical and strategic way to do it...so that was clearly the best and only way.

Yikes...not much room for collaboration with a mindset like that operating in a relationship, is there? I can answer that question from firsthand experience: no, no room for collaboration at all. Well then, what’s the point of choosing to share my life with someone if I’m not open to his contribution? No point, really...I might as well be dating myself.

Luckily for me, Eric has stood by me as I’ve shifted away from the, “I’m always right” mindset and toward a more curious mentality of, “Teach me how you see the world and how you process things...share your thoughts and beliefs with me so I can understand you better.”

This shift in my disposition has created an extraordinary shift in our relationship. Instead of seeing him as wrong when he sees things differently than I do, I get curious about his point of view. By choosing to be grateful for our differences, I’ve opened my eyes to the authentic Eric, instead of attempting to make him another me.

And my goodness, he is interesting! *insert goofy grin here*

I’m fascinated by the way that he sees the world, and his perspective on life has helped me to let go of a lot of my old limiting beliefs. Eric and I have different views on a lot of things, and instead of categorizing our views as right vs. wrong, I now see them as two valid views, and thereby expand my outlook on life and the world. Choosing curiosity and gratitude over right-ness and judgment has taken our relationship to a level of connectedness that I didn’t even know existed!

Below are some actions you can take to help you choose curiosity and gratitude in your interactions with others:

  1. First things first: stay focused on your desired outcome and eliminate “I told you so” from your vocabulary - when you operate from a place of genuinely wanting the best for others, you won’t need the validation of saying “I told you so” if the advice you gave them worked out...you’d just be happy for that person because they had a positive outcome, regardless of where the advice came from. A desire to say “I told you so” comes from the I’m-not-good-enough insecurity, and causes you to seek out external validation. Focus on supporting the other person in manifesting what they truly want, instead of making it about you being right.
  2. Pay attention to your body - right-ness brings with it a physical response...it might be a knot in your stomach, heat rising up your face, a tightness in your chest, a combination of these feelings, or something else altogether. Whatever it is, stay aware of your body and notice when it starts to engage in “fight or flight” mode. Take a moment to BREATHE...take a few breaths and think through what’s happening inside of you. What thoughts have brought up these physical feelings? Is your not-good-enough insecurity bringing up the desire to “prove” your worthiness? Acknowledge your physical response and then...
  3. Get curious, ask questions, and reevaluate - instead of spewing your own opinion all over a conversation, get curious about other people’s perspectives. Seek to know more about their point of view, and be open to changing your own point of view as a result of hearing theirs. There’s no shame in changing your mind about things, and the more open you are to other perspectives, the more well-rounded and accepting your view of the world will be. Stay committed to learning and growing, instead of holding on to being right. Reevaluate your own position, and if you do change your opinion and someone throws an “I told you so” your way...welcome it with the truth, “Yep...you did. Thank you for sharing your perspective with me.” :) Remember that their “I told you so” isn’t about you, it’s about their insecurity, so don’t let the potential for an “I told you so” stop you from open-mindedly evaluating and reevaluating all sides of the coin.
  4. Choose gratitude and fascination - no two people are the same...even identical twins have different likes and dislikes. Instead of judging a difference in perspective as being a negative thing, choose to be grateful for learning a new way of looking at the world. Be fascinated by the incredible diversity of the human race, and by how people can view the world so differently. I firmly believe that everyone is making the best choice they can, given the awareness they have in that moment, and that’s what makes this life so interesting!

Sending you love on your journey through life!

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Nicole is a personal growth blogger and a photographer. Her life’s mission is to live authentically, connect wholeheartedly, and share openly. She’s married to her best friend, and because of the love they’ve created, Nicole knows that true love is way better than the stuff of fairy tales.

Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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Stop Waiting To Enjoy Life - Enjoy The Moments As They Come

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As a new student and young father I had to work my butt off to keep up with school, family, work and all the other responsibilities that I had. I was working two part time jobs just to make ends meet and I was in school full time so I could graduate on time and move on to grad school. Times were tough and money was tight. I had to work hard just to keep my head above water. Some months we didn’t make it and had to go without some things. This was the hardest for me as a father. At these times I felt like a real loser and a failure. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my end of the deal in my family. Because money was tight, I had to make sure I stayed at the top of my class so I could go to a good graduate program that would allow me to demand a strong income in my first job. So I put a lot of time into studying. And in the mean time I put as much time into my two jobs as I could so I could pay the rent and buy diapers.

My daughter was less than a year old and didn’t know what our financial situation was. Being that young, she didn’t really care. But her big brown eyes and her innocence made me want to work harder at school and at work just to make sure that she would have everything she needed. My wife didn’t really care about our finances, either. Somehow we continued to get by. But for me it was miserable.

As a poor college student and young father working and studying so hard I found myself in the throes of a full blown, self-inflicted anxiety disorder. I had so many balls I was juggling at once that I planned my time in 15 minute increments. I developed a nervous habit of always checking my watch. Homework took about 2 hours a night - unless a paper was due then it was 2 hours and 45 minutes a night that week. It took about 15 minutes to drive to work. If I got a flat tire or someone showed up late to relieve my shift at work, I had to push back whatever family event was happening that weekend to make up for lost time. If I showed up late for work, it was X amount out of my paycheck (I knew exactly how much it was after tax back then) and I needed to make up for it by staying late. If there was a birthday (or, gasp, Christmas) that month I had to work a couple extra shifts and that meant I had to find time to my homework who-knows-when. I learned that necessities like sleeping and eating were really just added bonuses that people didn’t need that much of – or so I thought.

I was in the thick of things and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hardly saw my wife and baby because I was too busy trying to provide for them. For me, life was work. And not the leisurely kind where you could browse your computer while you do it. It was hard, exhausting, and consuming. I had to get ahead and stay ahead. This is all I could see and it was going to be this way for a while – at least until I graduated grad school in a few years.

Fast forward a few years and thankfully I have overcome those feelings and thoughts that once consumed me. But it’s not because I finally made the income that I was aiming for – I haven’t. It’s because I deliberately let go of the pretension and consumerism and the constant striving to attain things and status.

Instead of waiting for someday to enjoy life I’m able to enjoy life’s moments as they come. I’ve slowed down, smelled the roses and am enjoying pieces of life one simple moment at a time. There were a lot of realizations that I had to come to during my journey In order for me to stop wishing for someday and enjoy the moments as they come. Perhaps the most important realization I had was the role gratitude plays in living a fulfilling and rewarding life.

Gratitude was what was missing.

As I was going through the throes of my anxiety and working my butt off for someday, I never gratefully appreciated the beauty that was around me. I was absorbed in living the American dream – an external standard that society told me I should be trying to attain, instead of looking inside myself and finding what would make me the most happy and bring me the feelings of satisfaction that are truly fulfilling for me. I thought that society would somehow magically give this to me after I achieved the status I was aiming for. But I realized that satisfaction isn’t given to you. I found it within myself through gratitude.

I realized that in my desire to achieve and always wanting more that I never noticed the great things that were around me and right in front of me. I would get stressed out when I got a flat tire and felt resentful that I didn’t have a better car instead of appreciating the fact that I had a car that could haul me at 65mph to wherever I needed to go. Sure, life isn’t all cherry drops and gum drops and I still have crap things that happen. But in the meantime, it’s gratitude that makes my life fulfilling and rewarding.

There are many gratitudes I discovered along the way that help me to find happiness no matter what my circumstances are:

  1. I’m grateful to live in a country where the bare necessities (water, electricity, etc) are easy to come by. I realize I’m very privileged to have this and I’m grateful for it.
  2. I’m grateful for poetry, music and art that give life its extra flavor.
  3. I’m grateful that poetry, music and art are free on the radio, TV and in secondhand books that cost pennies.
  4. I’m grateful for friends and family who love me for me. Who don’t care what I wear, what music I listen to or what income tax bracket I’m in. They simply love me for me and I love them for them. And together we have a friendship that’s more rewarding than prestige or monetary success.
  5. I’m grateful for a country that protects its citizens and has laws in place to help them achieve, succeed and live in safety.
  6. I’m grateful for children and their smiles that warm you up no matter how bad of a day you’ve had.
  7. I’m grateful for nature and its many wonders and beauties. I’m grateful for easily accessible parks, streams and other places that I can enjoy the magnificent wonders of nature.

Most of all, I’m grateful for others. I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care about little old me with no reward for themselves. They have found something inherently good about me and love me for it. They don’t have to, they choose to. And for that I will always be grateful. It’s the love for me that I see in their eyes that truly brightens my day and makes me feel important.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"]

Aaron Anderson is a Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He also writes for several great relationship websites including the one you’re reading now, FamilyShare.com and the Huffingtonpost. He gives expert relationship information on his own blog RelationshipRx.net where you can get information for all your important relationship needs.

Want to get the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge sent to your email inbox every day? Fill out this little form here:

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Be Grateful For This Moment, This Moment Is Your Life!

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The power of gratitude is simply AMAZING! We have definitely experienced gratitude’s power first hand many times throughout our lives. In fact, we believe in gratitude so much, we even created a whole blog category on our photography website dedicated to gratitude. Recently, it was the unexpected gratitude of a reader of our site AMAZING LifeTogether that truly blew us away.

Before we share that story, we need to give a little bit of the back-story of AMAZING Life Together first. My wife Liz and I have been wedding photographers for 5+ years now. Having photographed 100+ weddings, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to celebrate and document one of life’s most amazing moments, getting married, with some really amazing couples.

Be-grateful-for-this-moment-this-moment-is-your-life-smallestHowever, we’ve also seen a lot of the hype and materialism the wedding industry has placed on a single day. Each of our couples is truly special to us and we wanted to help them not only have an amazing wedding but also an amazing marriage and life together.

To do so we started the AMAZING Life Together site. Our goal was simply to inspire couples to do more of the things that made them fall in love with each, create an open line of communication about what marriage is like, and to show that even if things do get tough it’s still possible and worth it to work through those challenges to create an AMAZING Life Together.

As we put more and more time and more and more effort into the development of our site, we began to wonder if we were really making a difference in people’s lives. Or if anyone was even reading and watching what we were creating.

A few months back we were letting the fear and doubt monsters really get to us. They made us wonder if our efforts were worth continuing. And then we received this email that rocked our world with gratitude:

“You are saving my marriage. Literally. He wouldn't go to marriage counseling & I was on my way out. But he has been doing this challenge with me and it has us communicating again & more importantly, connecting. You have no idea what this means to us. You guys are doing amazing work & I am so grateful to have found you.” –Wife, Atlanta, GA

That simple email of gratitude, just 62 words, erased any doubts and fears we had. We knew in that moment that if we were able to help save one couple’s marriage, then no matter what, AMAZING Life Together was more successful than we ever could have dreamed it to be. Simple messages like that have continually given us the energy and passion to continue our AMAZING Life Together mission.

Our own experience isn’t unique. In fact there are numerous studies that have shown how powerful just being and feeling grateful can be.

According to a Wall Street Journal Article Published in 2010:

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

One of our favorite studies was an experiment in which participants keep gratitude journals.

Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week – Gratitude: A Key to Happiness

In Nate’s original introduction to the 30-Day Gratitude Challenge he suggested starting and keeping your own gratitude journal. It turns out he was really onto something! J If you haven’t started your own journal, start today, it’s never to late.

The last thing we want to leave you with is something we think about often when we start feeling down or if we are failing to see as Nate says “the good in life.”

We all have one life, and no matter what, in this moment we have a choice that we can make. We can choose to be grateful and happy. Or we can choose not to be.

We choose gratitude and happiness.

What will you choose?

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Liz and Ryan are millennials, story tellers, wedding photographers, dream believers and AMAZING life inspirers. They are high school sweethearts, married for 7 years, and business partners for 5. Their dream is to inspire all couples to live a more AMAZING Life Together. Click here to learn more.

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Gratitude Is My Rocket Fuel

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Hey Loveumentarians! So excited to be visiting today. Nate is one of my favorite people on earth. The Hubs and I are both enthusiastic supporters of The Loveumentary and Unbox Love.

So, when Nate asked me to write about gratitude my very first thought was, “Of course! Gratitude is my rocket fuel.”

Gratitude for me isn’t just a feeling, it’s an activity that I engage in daily.

I am pretty sure that I first got the notion that gratitude was something you could practice, like guitar, from watching Oprah. She was interviewing Sarah Ban-Breathnach, the author of a book called Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort of Joy and they talked about the idea of creating a gratitude journal.

I had never heard of such a thing at the time but I have had a general rule since about high school, that if it’s good enough for Oprah, and doesn’t require a billion dollars to do, it is most certainly good enough for me to try.

Oprah bought T-shirt sheets, I got t-shirt sheets. Oprah had frozen hot chocolate while visiting New York city, I had frozen hot chocolate the next time I went.

And so on.

So when she said to pull out a journal and write 3 things you were grateful for that day, I tried it.

There are worse things a teenager could experiment with, I am sure.

The idea behind the journal was that the more you notice and appreciate things and experiences you are grateful for, the more of those good things and experiences come into your life.

Kind of like the law of attraction, gratitude edition.

The thing is even though I am a writer, I am absolutely terrible at keeping any kind of journal for any prolonged period of time.

Truly, truly terrible.

So I didn’t keep that up (sorry Oprah!). But, I did create my own gratitude tradition that I absolutely love and was totally inspired by Ms. O.

Every year sometime during the Thanksgiving holidays I take some time alone and write down 100 things I am grateful for.

It is positively amazing how many details you notice about life when you have set a goal to get to 100. After your immediate loved ones and lofty things like health and safety, you start noticing how grateful you are for things like:

  • Paved roads
  • Cold Stone Creamery Birthday Cake Re-mix Ice cream
  • Shellac Manicures
  • Every single one of your favorite TV shows
  • Your husband’s smile when you go on vacation
  • Your best friend’s laugh
  • Kit Kats (especially British ones – the chocolate is mixed differently).
  • Blogs. Friends. Laptops. Coffee.

And so it goes, until you get to 100.

Every time I make my list I notice how much of life there is to love.

There is so much and there is a seemingly infinite amount of tiny things that bring me huge amounts of joy.

I absolutely love the feeling I get when I notice and appreciate so many blessings.

But I am absolutely terrible at writing them down every day, so I decided I’d make gratitude lists whenever. In my head, but like all the time.

What I do is whenever I am paused at a red light, standing in line, or at any other random moment that feels good, I say, “Name 5 things you are grateful for, go!”

Best game ever, right?

The most random things come up.

Right now it would be

  1. The gourmet chocolate candy bar that had pieces of potato chip in it (tasted like Crunch but saltier)
  2. Really comfortable shoes
  3. My bed. (I haven’t slept in it in a couple of days and can’t wait to see my pillow again).
  4. The sound of my hubby breathing when he is sleeping.
  5. Caffeine Free Coke Zero

See? Absolutely the most random things ever. And yet, I smile just thinking about them.

I savor the beauty and wonder and power of life.

And I don’t wait to write in a journal.

I do it now.

What I have found over the years is that like guitar, you get better at gratitude with practice. It comes easier, becomes more natural and shifts your mood quicker the more you do it. It’s kind of like taking a vitamin for your heart and mind.

Practicing gratitude is important to me because it helps me remember all the good in my life, especially when I am going through something bad.

In my opinion, the highest, most advanced level of gratitude you could practice, is being able to feel gratitude for your problems.

I totally love feeling gratitude for my blessings. Easy right? Still important to stop and actually DO IT – whether you write it, sing it, say it in your head or post it on Facebook.

But feeling gratitude for my problems – that has been probably the biggest mind shift ever.

Here is how I do it:

Years ago I attended a training called the Landmark Forum. Some parts of it I loved, some parts of it I really didn’t care for at all. But my favorite lesson I learned there was when one of the workshop leaders said something to the effect of:

We all want our problems to go away.

Problems do not go away.

Rich people have problems. Single people have problems. Married people have problems. People who have what you think you want all have problems.

The key to problems is not to eliminate them.

The key is to continuously upgrade the quality of your problems.

Upgrade the quality of my problems?!?! That idea just blew me away. I really pondered and took that into my gratitude-filled mind where it came out as:

" Well, that’s a great problem to have.”

Example, sometimes I feel overwhelmed – career, marriage, family, friends – all good things, right? And yet, sometimes I am not sure how I am going to get it all done.

And I think, “well, that’s a great problem to have.” I think of the alternative – what if all of those things that are making me so busy, were suddenly missing from my life. Whoa. Instant perspective shift.

Instant gratitude adjustment.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have problems and definitely doesn’t mean I have them all covered.

It also doesn’t mean that some problems don’t flat out suck. Really bad stuff happens and I don’t want to minimize that, but the only way I know how to get through those really dark moments is to search for the glimpses of light inside them.

Gratitude helps me do that.

I hope it helps you too.

Now that we have established that gratitude is a practice – it’s your turn. Name 5 totally random, completely wonderful things you are grateful for right now – do it in the comments and we will all say thank you together.

[jbox title="About the author:" border="5" radius="15"] Maggie Reyes is a Life Coach, Writer + the Founder of ModernMarried.com. Her romantic-yet-practical approach to wedded bliss is regularly featured on Brides.com and The Happy Wives Club – the biggest wedding and marriage sites on the web.

Maggie loves all things Loveumentary and is excited to feature this great two part interview with Nate and Melissa on her site: Keeping Love Alive: Nate & Melissa The Loveumentary Interview and Love, Commitment and the Meaning of Marriage with Nate and Melissa from Loveumentary.com.

To read her favorite gratitude quotes click here. You can also click here to get a free gratitude list template to write your own 100 things along with an inspiring thankfulness-themed YouTube playlist. [/jbox]