One day just before November I was playing around on my computer and this idea came to me. What if I was thankful for 21 days. This idea was deeply rooted from two places. Place number one, my 31 list. Each year I have a list of things to do that correspond with my age (give 31 dollars away to 31 strangers, or read 31 books) and I noticed that giving thanks for 31 different things was on my list, and I had not completed it. Place number two that this idea came from was Facebook. I know, I know, Facebook messages can sometime be, well, dumb. But this idea was pretty good. A bunch of my friends were going to start posting everyday in November the things they were thankful for. Now, I may not care too much that my best friend’s husband’s sister’s friend is thankful for her husband getting a job, but I had to admit that it could be very therapeutic and mind opening to do this for myself.
Now, at first I thought, “I’m already thankful each day.”, but I then realized that I never really think about the day and the things, the little things, that are so amazing about it. Is there really something to be thankful for on a Saturday night while doing laundry and cleaning the house? I would soon realize that the answer to this question would be a very grateful YES!
I started a day 1 through day 21 journal of sorts, and in it I wrote quick little remarks about how thankful I was for something throughout that day. I was, at first, shocked because it wasn’t as cliché and annoying as I, very negatively, thought it would be. I actually enjoyed sitting down at the end of the day and relishing on the little things that make life so great. I enjoyed it, but would it really start a habit of thankfulness, more than I already feel that I am? Would I really keep the positive attitude that it inspired me to have? Would this really benefit me now and later?
The first thing I noticed was that I was starting to appreciate the people around me more, and was more grateful for the things that they did for me, no matter how small. My husband starting the car in the morning so I wouldn’t be cold on the way to work (day 1), the meter lady NOT giving me a ticket when she noticed me approaching the car as she was diligently writing the ticket (day 2). I was thankful for my patients referring their friends in to me (day 8, day 15, and day 16), thankful that my trainer is really good and knows how to kick my butt (day 5, day 12, and day 19), thankful to the United Airline team for finding the problem with the plane before we took off (day 14), thankful for friends picking me up at the airport at 2 am (day 14) and the list goes on. Before, I think I would have definitely been thankful to all these people for all these little yet amazing things that they did for me, but I wouldn’t have really thought about how blessed I am to have those people that care for me.
The second thing I noticed was that I started to appreciate myself more. I noticed the little things, everyday that I take for granted. Being thankful that I have time for myself (day 2), or that I am physically able to play tennis with my husband (day 7), even that I get to help my patients every day at work (day 10) and that I am able to hike 6 miles up a snowing mountain in Colorado (day 13 and day 14). I was even thinking about how wonderful it was that I was educated enough to be able to write this article (day 21). This wasn’t about being overconfident or arrogant, but instead about loving myself, what I did, and who I was, each day, every day. My confidence grew at work, in the gym and at home.
The third thing I noticed was that I was paying more attention to, and receiving more from, the little moments in my life more than I ever had before. A birthday dinner between two close friends (day 2), date night with my very cute husband (day 4), seeing all that Colorado and its beautiful sights had to offer (day 12-14), having friends to play poker with (day 7) and having a wonderful family, friends and brother to get together for a night out on the town for said brothers wonderful birthday. I could have easily just shown up to that birthday dinner with my friend, thinking nothing of it but a dinner. But it was much more than that. I sat there and thought about how we had been friends since the 6th grade, and at times it feels that nothing has changed between us. Or overlooked that my brother being born and spending all these years looking out for me and loving me, that is what’s important.
Lastly, I noticed that as each day went on I didn’t have to wait until the end of the day to sit at my computer and search for those thankful moments. Instead I started to realize those thankful moments from the first step out of bed until the moment I shut my eyes at the end of the day. I was no longer searching for things to be thankful for, but overwhelmed by the everyday enjoyments that I got to experience. It is a wonderful feeling to feel love, give love and recognize love every day! And not only was I not searching for what I thought was little, somewhat cliché things to be happy about (like being able to play tennis), but I realized that those were the things that really mattered. I can dance, I can sing, I can laugh with friends, and in no way is that any smaller of an accomplishment than having a week long beach filled vacation.
Were there bad days? Of course there were. I could have just as easily looked at how sick I was for a week and a half straight, been miserable and hated every second of that week. I would have continued on to only thinking about what a crappy week it was and how nothing was going to go my way. But instead I searched for the little things to make up for those bad things each day, my patients concern over my health, my co-workers taking care of me, my husband making dinner.
I only concentrated on those things which really mattered, and by the end of this 21 day project, I had managed to change the way I looked at each day and, in turn, the day itself changed.
21 days of thankfulness means really experiencing every lovely day by changing the way you see things, hear things, feel things and react to things. It’s the simple things in life that want to love you, and it’s the simple things in life you should love. Surprisingly, no, thankfully it’s just that easy.
Dr Tonya Ingalls, D.C.