Grumpy to Gracious

Q: What do you call a grumpy cow?

A: Moo-dy

Like many artists, I do my best to embrace all emotions. Yesterday, it was not so easy…

I woke up feeling gruuumpy. If I could have, I would’ve crawled into Oscar’s trash pad with Slimy and hidden away for a while. (At the time it seemed like only a cute little orange worm with miniature belongings could cheer me up.) But I couldn’t. I had to drive through heavy rain and traffic, between drivers who seemed to have lost their driving capabilities with the sun, to teach a class—rather than laze around or write to the cozy backdrop—where my grumpiness could not…or, at least should not, show. Blech.

To make matters worse, I felt guilty for feeling so darn grumpy. What right did I have? I have super-nifty people in my life. I love my work. I’m healthy. I have food, shelter, safety…the list goes on. But ARGH!!! I still felt grumpy.

As I pulled into park, hyper-analyzing my emotions as we introspective-folks tend to do ;), the study I sited in my last post popped into my head. It showed that keeping a gratitude journal can increase a person’s happiness by 25 percent. That would bring me to about…moderate grumpiness; only one foot in Oscar’s can. I had time, so figured what the heck? 

What happened next astonished me. I filled a page with big, scrawly words and phrases. My new niece, my bull dog, a sweet text message I’d received… And I swear, the fog lifted. (Metaphorically speaking.) I wasn’t happy-slappy ready-to-dance, mind you, but the tenseness in my shoulders eased up. The near-tears in my eyes dissipated. And a subtle warmth spread through my body, ensuring me that “everything’s gonna be okay.”

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Respecting, feeling and exploring our emotions is key to creative growth and expression. (And yes, we “deserve” a whole range.) One way to manage negative feelings involves putting them in perspective. In order to attract more goodness into our lives, we should really learn to appreciate and accept what we have and where we’re at.

Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. (I highly suggest one specifically for your car. ;)) If you don’t have a journal nearby in times of need, use the back of a receipt, a napkin—any write-friendly surface.
  • Say “thank you” often and mean it.
  • Do something kind for someone you’re grateful for, without their awareness of who did it.
  • Write and send thank you letters, emails and text messages regularly…or at least once per month. Studies have linked routine, hand-written thank you letters with long-lasting mood enhancements for the writers.
  • Have your family or a group of friends share what they’re grateful for at gatherings—and not just Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Support fellow writers’ and readers’ books, blogs and other projects by posting sincere comments, passing the word on or promoting them on your website.
  • Volunteer for Meals on Wheels, a soup kitchen or other organizations. (This is a great way to spend holidays.)
  • Make a “I’m grateful for…” list specific to a loved one. Send it to them with flowers, homemade cookies or a thoughtful card. Sing it to them if you wish. (If you’re not a great singer, it’ll be ultra-precious.)
  • Write a story or poem about an experience or person you’re grateful for.

The biggest benefits of gratitude come from regular practice, according to Robert Emmons—a leading gratitude researcher at the University of California at Davis. So make it a habit. The more we express gratitude, the happier we’ll feel, the more light we’ll bring to others and the less likely we’ll be to draw comparisons between ourselves and oh, say, grouchy Sesame St. characters… 😉

How do you express gratitude? What are you particularly grateful for today?

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Leave a comment


  1. Hi August!

    I always enjoy your posts. And you are so right. Gratitude seems to flip that negative switch, gives us a brighter perspective. Am I ever grateful for that! Oh, I didn’t mean that as a pun. I meant…Oh, never mind. It’s late and I’m brain dead.

    Thank you by the way for your support and visiting my posts!

  2. I’m slow to change from grumpy to happy, it usually takes sleep for me to turn around, but the good thing is I value the next day so much more. Life doesn’t go on forever so I always want to make the most of it.
    Tonight I’m going to be grateful for my bed. (and I’ll have to read your other posts tomorrow 🙂

    • You hit on the most crucial step toward grumpy prevention, in my opinion–SLEEP. I finally value it, as a grown up… ha. Knowing what we need to get through grumpiness and having patience with ourselves also seem key.

      Hope you enjoyed your zzz’s!

  3. I know I have loads to be grateful for but I sometimes get this feeling that I LOOK for a reason to be grumpy, moody, angry…I think that (and I speak for myself here) maybe if we feel neglected or unloved we react this way in defiance.
    But off course if you want love, you need to be prepare to give some to others, so I’ll definitely try your tips out August. I like the handwritten ‘thank-you’ notes-I think I’ll send one to my boyfriend. I’ve been giving him a hard time lately 😛

    Thanks for an excellent post!

    • I love your honesty and insight, Nisha. And your point on reacting in defiance seems spot on.

      Best of luck with that thank you note! May it cheer both of you. 😉

  4. Wonderful post, August. Thank you for such a fantastic reminder. Yes, we often forget to simply be grateful, or at least to express it. Practice makes a habit and that leads to less effort — we “just” do it 🙂

    I love your idea about keeping a gratitude journal. Brilliant!

    When I feel a bit grumpy, a piece of chocolate gets my endorphins going, and the world is a better place again 🙂

  5. Ooh, chocolate… Necessary emotional first aid. 😉 Thanks for stopping by and your thoughts, Angela!

  6. It’s cloudy this morning and rain’s in the forecast–a boon for my drought-stricken yard, city, state. Today, I’m grateful a storm’s in the offing. Thanks for your post, August.

  7. Catherine Johnson

     /  November 8, 2011

    Hope you’re feeling better already August. It’s when our plates are already full and the dog comes barging along to knock the plate over that tears can fall and grumpiness sets in. Read a good joke it usually works for me. Take care.

    • Thanks, Catherine! I am feeling better…thanks to the attitude shift and blog support. Funny how we think we’re providing something to our readers only to benefit (often more so) ourselves. A lot like those thank you notes, I suppose. 🙂

      Next time, I hope to locate funnier jokes than my cow number. LOL Hope you’re having a super day.

  8. That’s awesome August! I try everything to find something to make me smile. It usually involves my silly, stupid, awesome dog cuz he’s just so danged cute, but you are right, there are so many things to be thankful for every day. Like the sun, the late blooming flowers, the colorful leaves on the trees, life itself.

    I’m glad your day turned around!

    Thanks for the reminder to be thankful every day.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  9. I’m so thankful for figuring out how to be thankful. It definitely is making me a better person.

  10. I am a firm believer in the power of gratitude. I dedicate Sunday posts on my blog to the topic, and I find that the simple act of reflecting back on the week to pull out the positive sets a great tone for the coming week.

    Life is not all balloons and butterflies, but by focusing on what IS good, we bring more of the good in.

    I love your suggestions for working with and expressing gratitude.

  11. journalpulp

     /  November 8, 2011

    August wrote:

    Hope you enjoyed your zzz’s!

    It’s interesting you bring that up, August: all night long last night, I dreamed I was a muffler. When I woke up this morning, I was exhausted and fuming.

  12. I love the idea of writing down what you’re thankful for. That’s one I’m going to use in the future. I shared this post on my Facebook page too. Thanks for writing just what I needed to hear 🙂

  13. Glad to hear that, Marcy! I hope you find it useful.

    Thanks so much for the FB shout out. It’s tough to feel grumpy around you all… 🙂

  14. Sorry to hear your day started a bit on the grumpy side. But I am glad you turned it around. The gratitude journal is a great idea.

  15. When I read your post, I was reminded of this amazing book I had recently absorbed into my brain cells- The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. Even she said that gratitude has a huge impact on your life. It makes you happy and happiness is a positive feeling, which aligns everything in the universe the way you want it. Haven’t you ever wondered why everything seems to go just your way when you are feeling truly happy?

  16. That was just what I needed to hear! I have been grumpy the past few days with day-job-drama and a fever. I think I need to keep a small gratitude journal at work or in my coat pocket so I can be grateful on the go. I have to remind myself to find the good in the bad, no matter how bad it is. There is always something to be grateful for.

  17. Okay, that joke cracks me up. Every. Single. Time.

    I read this blog earlier in the week (I think a day after reading Julie’s Gratitude Sunday blog) and I’ve been thinking of it nearly every day. Then I realized I didn’t even comment, just read it and moved on. How rude!

    Way back in the day I tried to keep a gratitude journal because Oprah told me I should. I was pretty good about it for two years, then it went away. I don’t know why, but it did.

    Yesterday I went out and bought a super cute journal and I’m starting fresh. If you read Julie’s post on Sunday, it was filled with the sweetest things. Simple things. I’m going to take a page from her and you and practice thoughtful gratitude. I love the idea of hand written thank you’s or even just a note to say hi. One of my passions is making cards, now I’m going to do it for friends just because.

    Thanks for the reminder to take a moment and be grateful.

    • Not rude at all, Tameri! I’m just glad it resonated with you. Have a blast card-making and journaling. Hope you’ll share how it all goes!

      Off to visit Julie’s post…

      PS Thanks for loving my corny (but hilarious ;)) joke.

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