A while ago I took on a challenge I saw on Facebook. Every day I had to list three things I was grateful for. If I did this for 21 days I would rewire my brain for happiness.
It seemed like a bargain. Very little effort – I mean, how hard could it be? And a pretty big reward at the end. What did I have to lose?
It turned out to be harder than I thought. Not immediately – it was easy at the start. But when I’d worked my way through being grateful for my husband, my family members, my friends and my dogs it got a bit more difficult. I didn’t want to keep repeating myself.
Some days wonderful things would happen. There’d be brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies in the middle of winter. Complete strangers would say really nice things to me. I’d have a lovely meal.
Other days I’d really be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Or so I thought. I’d resort to things like “I have clean water” or “I can read” or “I’m alive”.
But then, of course, I realised. Those things I dragged out when I couldn’t find anything else to be grateful for were really important.
Millions of people around the world walk miles to collect dirty disease-ridden water. In South Sudan only 27% of people are literate. Even in the UK, an estimated five million adults have a reading age of 11 or below. And life is the greatest gift any of us has or ever will have.
When I thought I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to be grateful for I was actually finding the huge things. The things that really matter.
From then on it got a lot easier. A tiny thing like the beautiful green of a leaf reminded me of huge things like the fact I can see. The world was full of things to be grateful for.
In the end I carried on the challenge for quite a while after the initial 21 days. I stopped because I didn’t really feel the need any more. I got it – there was an infinite number of things in my life I could be grateful for – so there was no need to keep listing them.
Did it rewire my brain for happiness? I don’t know. Because at the end of the day I’m not even sure what that means. But it taught me to appreciate my life more.
So maybe more effort than I first thought. But still a pretty big reward.