"Gratitude is the best attitude." - unknown
Welcome back friends to another post for our Virtual Book Club on The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. I apologize for not keeping a regular posting schedule. I love the book but I am loving a lot of other books at the moment as well. So far my joy has been keeping the gratitude journal. However I have also noticed a shift in how gratitude colors some of my other relationships at work and at home for the better. I hope you can all say the same.
This blog entry is brought to you by a guest blogger, my niece Alana. She introduces herself a little more down so keep reading. She is an extraordinary young woman, and I love and admire her greatly. I was thrilled when she accepted my offer to guest blog for me. Please fell free to leave comments for her below to continue the conversation! The exploration of any idea is always more interesting when more participate. Thank you Alana for sharing!
When I was asked to write a guest post for the blog, I was elated. I loved The Gratitude Diaries (I finished a few weeks ago) and have referenced it multiple times for myself, during interactions with roommates, and in a workshop with student community service leaders on my campus. At first I thought I’d focus on specific passages that spoke to me, but I decided its impact on me would be better explained in a broader sense. The past couple months of my life have been extremely transformative—figuring out life goals, eating habits, and exercise regimens—and this book was an integral part of that journey.
A little about me: I’m one of Lynda’s nieces and a junior at Penn State University. I’m in the College of Communications studying Media Studies, a major focused on communication theory, policy, law, political communication, telecommunications, social justice, research, and writing. Simply put, I appreciate authors that use words to do good things. It’s not always easy to be as expressive and relatable as Janice Kaplan manages to be, but by the end you want to be her friend.
College in general was a bit of a rollercoaster ride to start, but now I feel like I’m sailing pretty smoothly. As someone who struggles with situational anxiety, taking time to reflect, meditate, eat well, sleep well, and exercise is absolutely crucial to my wellbeing. It’s something I’m still learning to balance, but this year was the first time I’ve felt really confident about the path I want to take in life and the person I have become. This book could not have entered my life at a better time; I was ready for the gratitude challenge! I was lucky enough to have received a journal to accompany the book, and I want to share some entries written in the very beginning:
1/18/17: I am grateful for…the yummy pho dinner Lauren and I had in the dining hall, the funny yoga instructor who insisted that “enlightenment doesn’t have to be serious” and used an accordion to pitch the “oms” at the end, housing for fixing the light outside of our door, that my rain boots came in the mail
1/19/17: I am grateful for…the sky had no clouds (so when I was walking home at night, I could see the stars), we won our first intermural volleyball game of the season, I had really delicious 6-vegetable pesto soup today for lunch (that I made!), my professor let us out of class 20 minutes early today
Super simple stuff, but reading it back now makes me smile.
So now to the three instances I mentioned in the beginning: applying lessons from the book to real-life situations. The part I found most personally useful was the section about gratitude and health (specifically diet and eating). As a food lover with a sweet tooth, self-control has always been an issue. I’ve been transitioning to a more plant-based diet, and in the process, it’s been helpful to be grateful for the good things that fruits, veggies, seeds, nuts, and legumes do for me. Taking care to prepare quality food for myself involves lots of self-love, and the experience has been rewarding. Not only that, but in times when I’m stressed or annoyed, I take some deep breaths and try to look for something to be grateful for.
This strategy has helped me with my roommates, as well. My roommates are all lovely, and I can’t complain about my living situation. Regardless, we aren’t all perfect, and I have my off days. There was a day when my roommate was particularly upset about the number of ants appearing in our living room and insisted on getting housing to come and spray. Not being a big fan of chemicals, I was not enamored by this idea and insisted that the problem would solve itself. The situation created a bit of tension, but I had to remind myself that I was lucky to have a roommate that cared about maintaining a clean apartment. She was willing to take action to solve a problem. In the end, an Orkin guy came and squeezed tiny bits of goo around the molding in our living room. I had overreacted, but putting the issue in perspective and being grateful for my roommate’s concern made the situation much better. My attitude improved immediately, like a flipped switch.
One morning turning to "Chapter Four: The No-Complaining Zone must have been fate. The weather was particularly miserable one day (similar to Kaplan’s experience), and as I was reading with breakfast, my roommate came in lamenting about how cold it was outside. I echoed Kaplan, mentioning how lucky we were to have class in nice toasty rooms. I noticed an immediate change in her frame of mind, and suddenly the morning was made more pleasant. I wish I could always have gratitude in my pocket like that, but I’m not always that quick to think on my feet. In this case, the mentioning of weather in the book could not have been timelier.
Lastly, I am a Healthy Penn State Ambassador, which means I work with a group of students to promote health and wellness around campus. In our training, we learned about all sorts of awesome free things that our health center has to offer (but few people know about, which is why the group was formed). In another organization, Council of LionHearts (a roundtable of student community service leaders), I was asked to lead a workshop on a topic of my choice. Drawing from what I learned at the Healthy Penn State Ambassador training, I chose burnout and self-reflection. The first thing I mentioned as a key to mental health? Gratitude! I brought my book along, explaining the whole endorphin phenomenon that occurs with a habitual practice of gratitude. The workshop was a hit!
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read The Gratitude Diaries. It’s the first non-academic book I’ve read in a while, and I’m happy to say that it’s reignited my interest in reading for fun. I’m now working on Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, a hilarious read about how Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner developed the Newman’s Own brand.
This post was a lengthy one, but thank you if you stuck around ‘til the end! The Gratitude Diaries is a book I’ll be recommending over and over to friends. Although the emphasis is on gratitude, I believe one of the biggest takeaways is patience. As mentioned before, gratitude is a habitual practice. It’s something that takes time to develop into a routine. So be patient and loving with yourself, as we all have off days and must remember that it’s called practice for a reason. - Alana Fiero