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?