Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sunday Reads #2: A Gratitude Project

via Society6

For a very long time, I was critical about everything. I have perfectionist tendencies and that means that I prone to analyse and see things in a negative light. There are times when everything seems 'good but not good enough'. I expect a lot from myself and from others. When I don't fulfill my own narrow idea of 'success', I can end up being quite negative. It's definitely not helpful but, at one point, I talked myself into believing that my ability to critically analyse and to push the envelope for more was a valuable strength. I thought that being able to stand up and tell a room 'hold on a second, I think we can do better than this' was something that I should be proud of. Indeed, for a very long time, I was rewarded because of this capability and I thoroughly enjoyed the accolades.

But being a perfectionist is exhausting, particularly if it lends itself to stress and overall unhappiness. It puts you on this treadmill of thinking that things aren't 'good enough', so you plan out to do better. But the irony is that you always find that 'better' still doesn't look 'good enough' and hence the cycle starts again.

A month ago, I spoke to a friend who was going through something similar and we decided that enough was enough. We both understood that what we were doing was no longer cutting it for us. We might be producing good results for others but it was at the expense of own wellbeing.

I suggested we do a Gratitude Project, where instead of finding faults in every moment, we would reprogram ourselves to see the positives in our daily activities. Initially, for a period of two weeks, I said that we should hold each other accountable by messaging 5 moments in which we were grateful for by the end of each night. 

For the first few days, I wasn't very good at remembering that I needed to report my 5 good moments to my friend. Even when I did remember, I always seemed to struggle after listing 2-3 moments that I was really grateful for. At this point, I thought it was absolutely absurd - whether that was my perfectionist/competitive side making a protest or not, I don't think I'm game enough to find out! But I thought it was crazy that out of 24 hours, I couldn't even come up with five good moments. 

Out of instinct, I knew that it had to be my thinking playing up. So I consciously started to examine the way I came up with my 5 moments and, without any shock or horror, I was filtering out things that I didn't believe was significant enough for me to share with my friend.

Things like having a good lunch, getting some time away from the computer, having a thoughtful conversation, helping to cook a really nice meal...

Once I got rid of my filter, I found that I had a lot more than 5 things to be grateful for at the end of each day. I started to challenge my own ideas on what was significant enough to be included in the list. This was actually one of my breakthroughs because I forced myself to view even the littlest things as something to be grateful for. I don't use the word 'force' lightly because every step of the way I was challenging my thoughts by asking 'why' I thought that way and whether it was really what I thought.

But things got easier. Everything felt easier and I felt happier. Things as trivial as having enough teabags at home, waking up with good hair and getting the right amount of honey in my greek yoghurt all became things that were worth being grateful for. For once, I felt genuinely pleased.

My messages to my friend have become this huge log of gratitude and thankfulness. And I've realised that the things I'm continually grateful for are the smaller things. It's always been those meaningful conversations, reconnecting with a friend, achieving small goals, taking time out of the day to pursue my interests...

I take greater joy in doing these things now and I'm more mentally present. I still hold standards for myself and those around me but I am becoming more flexible and tolerant. I've also noticed that I'm starting to complain less. I think it's because I'm starting to trust the notion that even if something bad happens, there is still something good I can take away from it.

But this is not to say that it's all been good. My friend and I have fallen off the bandwagon a few times and what we call 'relapsing' has been awful. It seems we still hold ourselves to high esteem and don't expect that we'll take two steps forward and then three steps back. 

However, thanks to positive thinking, I am now reminded that facing setbacks can be a good thing too. It forces you to reflect on your trigger points, those occurrences that make you susceptible to falling backwards. It helps you to learn, grow and to better next time. 

I really think that this Gratitude Project has really helped me. I'm just that little bit more positive and that's something to be grateful for. I know that there is a lot more I can do about my perfectionist tendencies. There's a lot of unlearning and reprogramming that needs to be done but I can definitely see how being grateful will help me overall. I've told a few of my friends about it and we're now doing it together as a group. I've found that even the happiest people I know also harbour some negative views on life. It seems virtually everyone can benefit from some positive thinking!

I hope this post inspires you to become more positive about your life! I'd love to extend this Gratitude Project to you. 

Challenge yourself to pin point 5 moments in your day in which you are grateful for or felt happiness for. 

Which 5 things are you most grateful for right now? 

You can do it on your own or you can do it with a friend so that you'll stay motivated. I honestly hope that this will help you as much as it's helped me feel better about myself!

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