There I was, scanning the ballroom for a table with an open seat, and someone new to sit by. The decorations at each table were certainly eye-catching. However, my eyes got stuck on a little treasure chest full of chocolate coins and bookmarks. I sat down and listened to the woman next to me explain a “magical writing practice” to better your mood. She gave me a bookmark with instructions on how to do this to increase your happiness, and the best part is that it was supposed to last all the way through 30 days. The commitment? Writing for just three consecutive days about positive moments from your life in three twenty-minute sessions.
Of course I had to see for myself whether this could really work. I fully believed that I would feel a burst of gratitude while writing. But would the good feeling really last for a month? The first day I wrote, I started with some of my earliest childhood memories. And you know what? Bam! A burst of hedonic nostalgia. And the second day? Boom! A spoonful of warming appreciativeness. And the third day? Well, how can I say it? I was harpooned by a sharp pang of indebtedness and thanksgiving. Yes, I am so glad I attended the writing conference put on by the American Night Writers Association earlier this year and got that bookmark.
But here’s the thing. No, my childhood was not bad at all. I ran around outside silently narrating my life in the third person (I guess I was destined to be a writer). I had good parents, and brothers to play with. I had good teachers. I had good church leaders. I enjoyed learning in school. I read for hours, and climbed the grapefruit tree in the backyard and made up stories about the neighbors. For all of these hedons, there were some dolors. For example, sometimes I was jealous about the things other kids had that I didn’t. Our family was never rich. And I always felt that there was something innately wrong with me because adults used this word called “shy” and even described me as “painfully shy”. My teachers at teacher conferences would give glowing reports but always tell my mother that I was so quiet in class. I often didn’t know what I wanted to say. Or how to say it if I did. That was painful. Sometimes I’d watch kids playing and want to enter into their group but didn’t know how. Sometimes the boys pulled my long hair. “You’re not very articulate, are you?” someone said to me once. That kind of hurt. Also, until I was around 16, I was a Temple Grandin, in the sense that I disliked being hugged. It just made me uncomfortable. More on this will come later.
Anyway, none of this was terrible or severe or alien. I can’t complain! It wasn’t difficult to focus only on the positive moments even if I remembered the moment before or after was sad. It didn’t matter. What mattered was looking for the things to be thankful for. It didn’t matter how many hedons I could count or how many it seemed I had compared to others. In the month that followed, there were no especially exciting occurrences, and I had my share of unfortunate events. But at times I found myself smiling although there was no apparent external stimulus. When I got sad news or something that just wasn’t fun happened, I rebounded to feeling grateful quicker than I thought possible before. Sometimes I felt a warm fuzzy inside though I didn’t know why. I slept better. I’m not kidding. There are so many benefits to having gratitude. It affects your whole self. Does that sound unlikely? Well, check this out: Be Happier with Gratitude. This quote below really says it all.
I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
-Henry David Thoreau
To go a step further, expressing gratitude makes it truly heartfelt. So thank you to the lovely lady who gave me that beautiful bookmark. And thank you for reading this lengthier post. And thank you to my excellent family and dear friends. And thank you writing chapter for supporting me. And thank you Lord for so many blessings on this Thanksgiving and for the 3 C’s I missed when I lived in China, namely, cheese, chocolate, and carpet, which I reunited with in joy and have loved again ever since. And thank you to the writer behind Wellness Mama, for the delicious homemade cranberry sauce recipe, which I have used for the third Thanksgiving in a row. You can find this incredible recipe here: Homemade Cranberry Sauce. What are you thankful for and how do you try to feel and express more gratitude?
How many hedons? Who cares?