On the night my husband and I signed our will, our friends acted as witnesses. The four of us sat with the notary at the dining table, signing the documents that would outline how and what our kids would inherit when my husband and I passed away. It wasn’t at the top of my list for Friday night fun but we did it. Little did I know signing that estate plan would completely change my life perspective.
An Inventory of Everything
Later that night as I went upstairs, I ran into my two daughters who were getting ready for bed. As we often do, we joked around and touched base about the goings on of the next day. Then the giggles subsided and we all wandered toward our rooms.
As I lay in bed, I thought about how my daughters didn’t know they’d inherit a house and a car and little nest egg of money. They didn’t know all we considered in putting together our plan: what might happen and what the kids might need. Though the girls knew we’d signed an estate plan, they of course weren’t interested. They had school and friends and work on their minds.
Absently I stared at the closed bedroom door. I thought of my sister who’d passed away in May. She was gone from me, and the earth, forever. So what did I have left? I realized what I had left was just on the other side of the door: my kids. Not far away, not gone from the earth, but just a few steps away! Wow. My son, though far away, was in his college apartment with his buddies. He was a text or phone call away. Wow. I had three kids who loved me. That’s what I had left. Not to mention a loving husband.
How lucky am I? I thought. I get to wake up tomorrow and I could, if I chose, talk to all of them. Spend time with them. See their faces.
A Total Shift in Life Perspective
Slowly, my body filled with a sense of awe. Warmth. I was stunned by the love of my family. My husband. Our pets, past and present. I felt thankful for our friends of that night, and others I’d made over the years. All the experiences and travels I’d had.
As I listed all the good stuff in my life, I grew overwhelmed. Felt the power of gratitude. I couldn’t believe what a wonderful life I had. Yes, my sister passed away, yes, my mother-in-law too. And yes, I’d had health problems this year but still, I was here, on earth in this moment. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I radiated a happiness I hadn’t felt at such a strong intensity before. It was like my happiness skyrocketed into space. I floated with peace.
Afterward, I made a choice to enjoy my life as much as I could every day. Actually enjoy it. I’d never enjoyed life. I mostly thought about what was wrong and how to make it better. No longer. I decided to hang on to that wild and wondrous feeling I’d had that night. To be happy. For the first time in my life, I realized being happy was actually a choice, not a thing to work toward or that happened from time to time. I had the power to change my life perspective if I relaxed enough to enjoy the good things. And I haven’t let go since.
Have you ever had an epiphany like that? How do you stay happy? Maybe you keep a gratitude journal. If you have ideas, let me know!
Make no mistake. Self-help writer Gabrielle Bernstein’s latest book, Super Attractor, is definitely woo-woo. It offers mantras, it’s got the word “Universe,” all over it, it references the famous channeler Abraham. If you’re the kind of reader who makes fun of touchy-feely, pseudo-psychological books, then this book is not for you. But if you’re the kind of reader who can see past that and take the author’s advice for what it is, then you’ll get quite a bit out of this book.
What’s It About?
The premise launches from that mid-2000s television special called The Secret. The Secret talked about how when we align ourselves with the positivity and joy of the universe, good fortune comes our way. Basically, the idea is you manifest whatever your mind focuses on. So the question becomes can you “manifest” ten-thousand dollars? Probably not. But if you align all of your mind’s thoughts and actions with that goal, you may indeed end up with ten-thousand dollars eventually.
So while the idea is a little out there, I have to attest that it actually works. I’ve had situations in my life when I stopped pushing and agonizing over a “want,” only to have that “want” fulfilled only because I let go of my angsty desire for it and came at the goal from a place of detached, relaxed love. It’s strange. It’s happened to me with real estate, relationships, and career success.
As Bernstein says, you have to align yourself with what you want to attract. Part of that alignment is positive thinking, yes, but a bigger part is also concrete action. Every action you take, even if small, builds to form a fluid productive process toward your ultimate goal.
The Idea of Faith
But as Bernstein says you can’t push it. You can’t force it. You can’t agonize over it. It’s got to come from a place of love and joy and wholeness. You have to keep an open faith in yourself and the future. And that idea of faith is where the book gets woo-woo. Bernstein talks about her spiritual faith a lot, and she encourages you to do so as well. But she also says whether that’s God, the universe, a higher power, or another larger, more powerful consciousness other than yourself is up to you. The point is to swim with life’s flow, not flail against the current.
What I Got out of This Book
And so, once you buy in, I think you’ll find solid advice here. Bernstein, in her very organized way, guides you through the process. In early chapters, she helps you rid yourself of the negativity that may be holding you back. Then, once you truly feel aligned with positivity, she helps you dial into the abundance waiting for you. She believes the universe and spiritual guides play a part and this is where the book got a little far-fetched for me.
But then she goes into how to align yourself through what you do everyday to this larger plan, which I found highly useful. Also, her ideas about the importance of intention and gratitude also resonated with me. Plus, she wraps it up with some fairly useful ideas about how to keep your positivity going beyond the book.
So, if you’re looking for a book to motivate you into making changes this January, I highly recommend it. Gabby Bernstein knows how to effectively help us discover our best selves and that alone makes this book worth reading.
Now that I’ve started a gratitude journal, I’ve been worried that its effects may wear off after a while. If I repeat myself regularly, I may lose the quality of happiness I’ll feel when counting my blessings. I mean, how many times can you feel grateful for a spouse, child, pet, etc?
The Various Approaches
So I did a little research. A super helpful article in Greater Good Magazine talks about the various techniques for getting the most bang for your blessings buck. They advise to go deep in your entries, elaborating on your grateful experiences with a lot of details. This makes sense as the more you imagine and relive the situation you’re grateful for, the better you’ll feel. Also, they advise focusing on people, what your life would be like without the thing you’re grateful for, and recording surprising events.
The Various Benefits
I also discovered that the scientific studies conducted by psychologist Robert A. Emmons showed people getting a plethora of psychological benefits. These included more restful sleep, lower blood pressure, higher alertness, and more willingness to connect with others. Other benefits surfaced as well. All provable and data driven. If you’d like to read an easy overview of the science, check out this article from the University of California at Davis.
The One Most Effective Thing You Can Do
Also, in my research I learned that the most important thing you can do to create an effective gratitude journal was not what I’d guessed. It’s much simpler and obvious. And that is to only journal once or twice a week. Studies show that those who wrote in the journal three times or more a week, lost the psychological benefits. The mind adjusted to the positive events too quickly and they lost their positive impact. Subjects became numb to the happiness. Interesting, huh.
I was actually happy to read this because in truth I’m kind of lax with journals and don’t trust myself to log in what I’m grateful for every day anyway. Hee.
So if you’re like I am and want an excuse to journal every week rather than every day, gratitude journaling may be the path for you too.
An Inspirational Book
During this process, I’ve been thinking of the poet Ross Gay. His book, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, sings with beautiful verse about all that is difficult and painful and unjust and yet worthwhile in this wild thing we call life. I highly recommend it for inspiration!
As we get into the new year, I’ve decided to start a gratitude journal. I’m not sure why, I just had an impulse. But I think the impulse comes from where I was at the end of last year. In late fall, the press I published The Forgetting Flower through, went on indefinite hiatus due to the publisher’s medical issues. That hurt. Then, a close loved one was in financial trouble, also hard. But I think worst, my dog died. You know how people say, “What’s the matter? You look like your dog just died.” Yeah, well, that was me.
A New Year Brings New Beginnings
Still, despite all that, I knew I still had a good life. I had a supportive husband, three great kids, and three sweet animals. I had a house and a garden and enough money. Once, I started mentally listing what I did have, I felt better.
Buddhist philosophers believe that to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have creates happiness. When you focus on what you want, you will suffer. It’s such a simple concept and yet so true. Modern psychological tests back this up. People who focus on what they’re grateful for are happier than those who don’t. I realized I was grateful for what I had but needed to keep better track of those blessings. Like in writing. So I wouldn’t take them for granted.
Artifacts That Spark Joy
I procrastinated getting the journal because I wasn’t sure if I should use my old Ideas & Journal notebook for this or a fresh notebook. And what kind? A composition book? A beautifully bound journal? Something recyclable? Before I knew it, I was paralyzed by the indecision that came with finding the silly notebook that I needed to start. So I left the task alone.
Then, the other day, I went to my local garden nursery. While shopping for a pot for a houseplant, I noticed a basket on display. It had several small journals inside, all decorated on the outside with plants. One even had the leaves of tropical plants and they’re accompanying botanical names. The cover was beautiful. And without a plastic or glossy cover, it was recyclable. Boom! Done!
I’d found the pure inspiration I’d needed at a plant nursery. Of course, I did. It was almost too predictable. But in the end, a regular notebook would have worked. Even a bunch of paper stapled together. The physical object doesn’t really matter that much, does it?
How to Create a Gratitude Journal
As my first entry I wrote that I was grateful for garden nurseries and botanical journals that had drawings of plant leaves with accompanying Latin names. My second was the thanks I felt for my family. The third was for having a good place to live. But from then on, where did I go? I didn’t want to just repeat the same things over and over again.
I wanted to go deeper, get more detailed. Get in touch with what was happening in my life. So I looked around the interwebs and found this great article from Shutterfly. It has an outstanding list of prompts to get your thoughts flowing. Like: Pick a random photo and write about why you’re grateful for that memory. Or: List three people who helped you through a tough situation.
I like the idea of mining my memories and experiences for detailed imaginative material
Getting Acquainted With Gratitude
Keeping this journal is still new to my life. I’m not really a self-help type. However, I’ve found articulating what is so good about my life makes me instantly and extremely happy. Despite our political situation in the U.S., I still have a lot to be grateful for. And that gratitude super-charges my soul so that I can be available and present to others. That may be the best gift out of this whole endeavor.
Join the hundreds of other subscribers who get ideas for cool books, film, music, plants, Paris, and inspiration. It’s A Vine of Ideas. Thanks!