Many of us have heard that when you express gratitude, it helps you overcome negativity, fear, and puts you in a positive mindset. Indeed, there are many studies that prove that if you keep a gratitude journal and list the things that you’re grateful for on a daily basis, that it will improve your life overall.
I’m all for this! I have been keeping a journal since I’m eight years old. And while sometimes I fill pages and pages in my journal working through problems, venting, and generally throwing it all on the page (so I don’t throw it anywhere else, like at the people around me!), there are other times when I fill countless pages in my journal talking about how grateful I am and what I’m specifically thankful for. I truly believe in the power of the written word. Heck I’m a writer… You would hope I do!
But recently, I noticed that if we express our gratitude out loud and in front of someone else, that it’s contagious. Here’s an example.
I don’t like the winter. I’m a complete weather weakling. Yes I grew up in New York and lived through many many winters, but that doesn’t mean I like the winter or being cold. So even though I love autumn, as the weather turns cooler, it’s reminding me of what’s coming next. And I don’t like it.
(By the way, I love how Californians find out that I’m from New York and ask me if I miss the winter and snow. Umn…no. A big fat no! I usually chuckle and ask them if they’ve ever lived in winter weather or snow, to which the answer is almost always no they have not, but it looks so pretty. Well, it’s very different seeing snow on television, looking at it in photos, or even going to visit winter and snow in Lake Tahoe for a weekend and being able to come back to the comfort of your non-winter non-snowy environment. You don’t have to shovel it, skid across three lanes in it, get your car pulled out of a ditch twice on the way home because of it, or fall on the ice as you’re walking to work. But I digress!)
My husband and I were cooking dinner recently, and I looked at him and told him that I needed to do a re-frame. I needed to say out loud what I’m grateful for in terms of the weather turning cooler. So I made a list. And I was rattling off items extemporaneously in front of him so he could hear me as I was doing it. Here’s what my list included.
- Taking long hot bubble baths. I love taking baths but noticed I tend to only do it when it’s cold outside.
- Lighting a fire and reading by it. We have a fireplace in our new rental home that we both love. We placed two comfy upholstered chairs right near it and that is our little reading nook.
- Hot chocolate. We consider ourselves hot chocolate connoisseurs and go through tons and tons of it over the winter.
- Red wine. I tend to be a white wine drinker in the warmer months, and a red wine drinker in the cooler months.
- Pots of delicious hot tea. I am a major tea drinker. And although I do drink hot tea year round, I tend to mix it up in the summer with some iced tea. (I learned how to make sun tea this summer! Yes I know I’m very late to the party, but I felt like a little kid watching the water turn darker as the sun worked its magic on the teabags outside on my patio.) In the cooler weather, I use an adorable pot that my husband bought me and lots of looseleaf tea and various infusers. It’s such a lovely ritual.
- More reading and writing time. I tend to spend more time indoors over the winter as opposed to getting outdoors. That indoor time tends to translate to more reading and writing in my world.
- Going to the movies or renting them at home. We love the movies and tend to go a bit more during the cooler weather, or hunker down on our couch under an electric blanket watching one at home.
- Wearing my fall and winter clothes, including luxurious scarves to keep my neck warm, hip ankle booties and knee length boots that are fashionable and keep my feet warm, comfy thick sweaters, leggings, leather jackets, etc. Yes… I love my fall and winter clothes! And the cold weather gives me an excuse to actually wear them.
As I was listing all of the things that I am grateful for during the colder weather, I noticed that my attitude started to change. I started to genuinely get excited for the cooler weather to come. Listing all of the things that I was looking forward to helped me reframe my mindset.
But here’s where it got interesting. It wasn’t just me that was getting a reframe and a mindset shift. It was my husband too! Granted, he loves the change of seasons and isn’t as against winter weather as I am. So he may not have needed as big of a mindset shift as I did. But I could see that he was getting excited for the things that I was listing also. Part of it was that he was excited to watch me change my attitude. But part of it was that he was getting excited for himself as he started to think of the things that he’s looking forward to.
And this is when I realized how contagious gratitude is. I always knew this deep down, but doing this little exercise really drove it home for me. Yes, I think it would be impactful for someone reading my list (for example, are you getting more excited for winter weather based on my list and thinking about the things that you are looking forward to?). I know that words are powerful. But I think it’s even more powerful when you’re working through it with someone in person and they’re hearing you list the things you’re grateful for out loud.
Think about the next time that you want to do a re-frame and change your attitude or your mindset about something. Instead of just grabbing a pen and paper, think about also (or instead) doing it out loud with someone in your life. It could be a friend, family member, colleague, client, etc. Watch how it affects you, and the person that you’re talking to. Chances are they will “catch” your gratitude and benefit from it, changing not only your mindset, but theirs also in the process.
In the meantime, happy almost winter!