Experiments in Happiness: Gratitude, One Month (Almost)

Recap: My New Year's resolution is to stop externalizing my happiness, so I'm experimenting with my behaviors and habits -- one per month -- in order to become a more self-aware, self-assured person. You can access my archive for past installments.

April: Gratitude Journaling, One Month(ish)

Gratitude journaling this month didn't work out so well. I'm bad at being grateful, I guess. I forgot constantly -- like almost every day -- to write down just one thing I'm grateful for, and then I found myself catching up on 2, 3, 5 days of gratitude at a time. And then about a week ago I just stopped because I got impatient with myself and honestly, I lost interest.

I also have the sneaking suspicion that I did this whole gratitude journal thing "wrong" in some way. Beyond not being able to remember to simply do it daily, I also struggled with coming up with things that were unique each time. Like if I weren't trying really hard on every entry, most of them would probably just say "friends" or "family." But for some reason, being grateful for something as basic and general as "food" feels painfully unoriginal. I made myself write more specific things. ("Friends" became "Having creative friends," for example.) The writer in my head goads me, "You can do better than 'shelter.' That's amateur-level."

And so all the obvious things got shoved aside and I found myself scrounging through the dregs of my day for a nugget of thankfulness, a moment where I got to do something small and inconsequential but enjoyable, or a human interaction that made me feel particularly fuzzy on the inside. And when I couldn't come up with something, that felt pretty bad. I'm so lucky in so many ways, how could I not be grateful for every breath I take? I ended up feeling like I'm so privileged and out of touch that I've lost sight of anything to be grateful for that isn't some unexpected boon or windfall. That being said, I also felt like my scale was out of whack: One day, I wrote that I was grateful for my dad, and the next for matcha lattes.

But maybe I'm missing the entire point. Maybe it's ok to be grateful for my friends 3 days in a row. Maybe I didn't have to craft this perfect little bespoke cupcake of gratitude every freaking day. Honestly, I found myself more impatient and unengaged with this experiment than any of the previous months. It just felt like such a chore, and I derived negative pleasure from the exercise, which bizarrely made me feel inadequate and just generally bad about myself for not being able to conjure more happiness about my life. Which maybe tells you a lot about me. I am happier when I'm not thinking about how happy I should be, because I come up consistently short.

I'm calling this month an utter and complete failure. I'm going to go back to the more "physical" challenges for May since, unbelievably, it was easier not to eat refined sugar or drink any alcohol than it was to write one lousy sentence in a book every day. Let's call May for working out 3 times per week, which truly sounds terrifying to me, but not as bad as "daily affirmations," which is also on my list. We'll see what happens.