I’ve heard time and time again that gratitude is scientifically proven to boost your mental health. Gratitude journals are ‘all the rage’ and to be completely honest, they’ve never appealed to me.
It’s always felt a little fake and forced to sit there and list all the thing I’m grateful for. Somehow, just listing all the random things I was grateful for, like being healthy for example, didn’t actually change how I felt about not being ill. If that makes any sense?
But ever since I returned from Fiji, I’m so deeply grateful for everything in my life that I just want to hold onto this feeling forever. Which is obviously not going to happen because nothing lasts forever. Hopefully by listing out all the things I’m genuinely grateful for will help me ride this blissful wave of gratitude just a little bit longer.
So, here’s to trying out the gratitude journal thing. It’s a pre-emptive one written in no chronological order for each day of February, just to help me get through this month when the daily grind starts to encroach in on my holiday spirit.
1. Living in a country where summer occurs in winter!
I still find it hard to think that it’s hot outside during Christmastime and freezing during what should be the “summer months” of June-August. I used to hate February when I lived in Canada, but in Australia, it’s my favorite month because it’s the middle of summer and it’s our anniversary. The only downside, of course, is that when summer should be in full bloom, it’s Australian wintertime. Let me just tell you that it is 367% colder than you may think.
2. My morning commute.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that my morning commute involves passing the opera house and walking through the botanical gardens where I almost always see either a kookaburra, cockatoo or a flock of rainbow lorikeets.
I remember one summer when we were kids, all four of us were finishing dinner at the table. My sister squealed, pointing out the window at this perfect semi-circle rainbow painted across the sun-setting sky. While we sat there talking about the pot of gold under the rainbow my dad spontaneously announced, “ok, everyone up! Let’s go find the end of the rainbow!” We all hopped in the car and my dad drove us to the football field at a school nearby. The rainbow looked as if it was ending right in the middle of the field. Elizabeth and I bolted out of the car down the field, racing each other for the pot of gold. I remember breathlessly turning back at my parents; my dad motioning keep going, my mum smiling as a gust of warm wind ran through her long blonde hair.
4. Being able to go back “home.”
The worst part about living far away from family is, of course, having them so far away. Missing out on the little moments of life add up in the long run. But the good thing is, it makes the times we have together even more cherished. Nothing beats that feeling of being enveloped in love by my parents, my dog, my cats, my extended family, friends, neighbors, parents friends, grocery store clerk that knows my mum, etc. My heart could explode from it all.
5. The opportunity to travel.
I’m grateful for all that I’ve seen, everywhere I’ve been, and all that I’ve yet to see. The best thing about the planet is that it’s so huge and impossible to see everything. I’ll never run out of places to go!
My cute fiancé who showers me in love, joy, patience, and an unbelievable recollection of random historical events/facts. He is a rare unicorn of maturity + emotional intelligence. His parents raised a wonderful man and I’m lucky he chose me ♥
7. Our apartment.
Living in our beautiful little apartment in Elizabeth Bay with a sun-drenched kitchen and little study where I get to write. The fact that ‘Elizabeth’ is the name of our neighborhood makes it all the more comforting for me. It really is a dream come true to have this place.
8. Smiling strangers.
In a big city like Sydney, small acts of humanity like taking noting of a persons existence with a genuine smile is so special. Especially because we’re all absorbed by our smartphones, rarely taking notice of the other human beings around us. On some days, when a stranger smiles at me it’ll be the only part of the day when I actually feel seen (other than when I come home and see Mat). The empty “how are you’s” in the office ain’t got nothing on a genuine smile. Anytime it happens, I am reminded by how important it is to share the same act of kindness with another stranger. Think about how many people feel so completely alone and invisible, just one smile can make such a huge difference to their day.
A bath after a long day with precisely 7 drops of lavender oil (it’s my favorite number) and a cup of Epsom salts is the best thing ever. I’m so grateful that my apartment has a bath when so many apartments don’t!
10. Meeting other like-minded people.
Ahhh, that amazing feeling of being understood and being able to express my ideas while the other persons head nods in agreement, or looks at you with curious interest, asking questions and wanting to delve deeper into a conversation. Damn, that’s good.
11. When a song I love comes on the radio at the perfect time.
Even though I rarely spend time in cars, it makes these moments all the more special. Especially when the driver beside you either has the same taste in music or is happy to have a DJ co-pilot singing and dancing beside them.
12. Animals, but mostly my animals (and this insanely cute cat)
I’m grateful for my dog, Sabre, who has been there for all the big moments of our life and is still going strong even though she is in her 90s in human age. Also for the cats: Jaggy, who is confident, feisty and tenacious, and Abby, who is calm, observant and Eckhart Tolle-like. All our animals and their unique personalities help me become a better person.
13. My friends.
The ones here, there and everywhere. Life would be a misery without my friends so thank you to all of you for making my life better!
14. The feeling of belonging.
I’ve felt like an outsider for so much of my life that to finally feel like I’m part of something and that I belong? It almost goes beyond gratitude. It’s like transcendence into a kind of heaven!
16. Rainy days.
If I lived in Vancouver – or Ottawa for that matter – rainy days would probably not be on my gratitude list. But since I live in Sydney where the sun literally almost always shines, a rainy day is welcome with open arms. Don’t get me wrong, I live here because I love hot weather and enjoy the never-ending dose of Vitamin D. But the pressure to take advantage of every single sunny day 365 days a year is actually stressful. But when it rains, it feels almost like a day off. It’s like this unifying day of rest when everyone is indoors watching movies, reading books, baking cookies, chilling out.
17. Mornings that last all afternoon
“Take your time getting dressed this morning; read a book, make yourself some breakfast. The world can wait.”
Ahh, yes! Nothing beats those lazy Saturday or Sunday mornings when you get up slowly, with nowhere to be, so you sit in your chair and write, drinking endless cups of coffee and feel zero stress at all because there’s nothing else you need to do…
When I first moved here I lived in Bondi with two Aussies who were excellent cooks. They were the kind of people who would open a fridge and whip up a 5-star meal from whatever leftover ingredients they had. One time they made this dish that had this firm, salty cheese type taste and I almost fainted from the deliciousness of it. When I asked how they made it, they whispered the words: “it’s halloumi.”
Life changed that day. Mat and I are going to name our first born child Haloumi.
19. Meditation Apps (Insight timer).
How nice are these people to allow this kind of stuff to be accessed for free, thank you to the guys and girls behind Insight Timer! It has helped me find peace and calm in the midst of so much stress.
20. My blog.
This blog is like the best form of therapy. Even though it costs me about $100 bucks a year to keep this blog going, it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. The digital world, specifically social media, can have some powerfully negative consequences. Sometimes it’s like we forget that all humans go through dark times and hit bumps along the way. This blog is just a place to be real and transparent about being a human and managing with this crazy thing called life.
Thank heavens for books. Life will never be boring with books in it. A really good captivating book honestly brings me so much joy and happiness, I feel like I am lifted outside of my head and plopped into someone else’s. Sometimes just reading a great story can actually feel like a better connection that talking to an actual person.
22. My parents
For doing what they have done to raise us and having to endure the loss of their daughter, Elizabeth. Even though they are not perfect and frustrate the hell out of me at times, they are good people with kind hearts and they never deserved this kind of pain.
Which are basically books for your ears. One of my favorite things to do is go for a walk while listening to a podcast, it’s essentially combining my two favorite things. The best one I recently discovered is Super Soul Sundays with Oprah. The one where she interviews Eckhart Tolle is so good.
24. Savasana pose/meditation classes
Who doesn’t love laying down and listening to a gentle affirming voice guiding you to serene peace? My local community center runs weekly meditations for free on Friday’s and they are the best. While I’m laying there in meditation, I often feel like swarmed in writing ideas that I feel like I need to write them all down immediately after so they don’t leak out of my head!
25. Having an income.
So many people are unemployed or barely getting through life financially. While I may not have my dream job, I do make an income and being able to pay your bills and set aside some savings is something to be deeply grateful for. One day I will find a career that is fulfilling spiritually and emotionally, but until then I need to pay my bills and figure out what exactly that dream career is.
The Japanese word for this is “ikiagi” which is the intersection of what you love, care about, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. It’s weird but I sometimes feel like working in jobs that aren’t completely fulfilling to be amazing fuel for writing. Some days I come to work with a burning desire to write and I just pull open an email and jot some ideas down and send to my personal email to work on later. I don’t know if the same would happen if I had endless days of freedom to write. It almost feels like work… is… my… muse…?
26. Long walks
I think the best stress reliever is a long walk with good music or an inspiring podcast. No matter what state of mind I’m in, a walk always has the power to dim those intense feelings and help me gain clarity.
27. Having something to look forward to
One of the best things in the world is knowing that there are things in life I can look forward to. Although I know it’s important for me to find a balance because life is only ever happening now.
28. My sister, Elizabeth
Because without her, I wouldn’t be me.