I spent last week in court. More specifically, I spent last week serving Jury Duty. I was called on Monday morning, which happened to be my son’s first day of preschool, so I missed drop off. Ugh. Not an obvious scenario for optimal gratitude mindfulness.
After a long morning of jury selection, I was ultimately selected to be on the jury. For a SIX DAY trial.
A part of me has always wanted to be on a jury. I love learning new things. I think it’s an interesting process. But 6 days of jury duty? That’s a long time for anyone.
It would be easy to focus on the negative aspects of this situation.
- I had to drive to the opposite end of a neighboring town.
- I had to drive home in heavy traffic.
- I was required to sit in a chair for hours on end (which was a struggle since I’m used to moving a LOT).
- I had to rely on a lot of people to help me cover childcare and shuttle my kids to all their activities.
- Days were long and boring and mentally exhausting.
But you know what I realized?
The experience was a perfect chance for me to practice gratitude mindfulness.
On Day 1, I made a decision that I was going to view this as an opportunity, not a hardship.
I know that above all, I choose where to direct my energy. If I am going to be required to put the rest of my life on hold for over a week, I might as well try to look for the positives in it.
And there were a lot of positives to be found. For every “negative” I listed above, there was a silver lining:
- During my morning drive, I was able to catch up on my Podcasts.
- In the afternoons I got to listen to the music I wanted (not the clean versions) with the windows rolled down and no complaints from the backseat.
- I had a front row seat to observe how the legal system works AND listen to some interesting testimonies from very, very intelligent people.
- My children got to spend time with people who love them (and vice versa).
- I got to use my brain in a different context than usual; it’s nice to be mentally stimulated.
As the week went on, I realized that the greatest gift of this experience was simply the forced break in my daily routine. New environments make gratitude mindfulness so much easier.
The change in scenery, company, and schedule allowed me to experience things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I got to participate in an alternative reality that is going on around me all of the time, which I have been oblivious to.
One day, I took myself on a date during our lunch break. I sat on the patio, blissfully alone, and worked on my laptop. I enjoyed the sunshine on my back and I noticed the first few yellow leaves scattered on the ground. I ordered myself dessert and enjoyed every bite.
Another day I spent the lunch hour walking around Old Town with my camera out. I made it a game to capture artful things. I took photos of bikes, piano keys, street art. I noticed things I’ve passed by before. I focused my attention on the beauty to be found beside the familiar.
I got to know my fellow jurors through our time spent together during breaks. Friendly people I probably never would have met. I’m typically not a very social person so in a lot of ways, this felt surprisingly nice.
Basically, this past week was a real life exercise in taking the lemons and whipping up a tasty batch of lemonade.
If this had happened to me two or three years ago, I’m not sure that I would have been so optimistic. I’m pretty sure I would have missed some of these opportunities to find joy.
That’s the beauty in consciously cultivating gratitude.
If you practice it when things are going right (the easy part!), it is second nature when things don’t go the way you planned. Habit kicks in and helps you find the good even when it isn’t readily apparent.
If you haven’t started a gratitude mindfulness practice yet, I encourage you to give it a try. It doesn’t have to be hard.
Here are few simple ideas to begin:
One of my favorite books by Gretchen Rubin is full of suggestions about how to master your habits. A specific strategy she discusses has been very useful to me. It involves “tacking on” a desired habit to an existing habit to create a cue for you.
If you are a person who says prayers at night (either alone or as a family), it is easy to also say what you’re grateful for out loud at prayer time. This is an especially easy way to introduce children to gratitude mindfulness in an organic way.
In our house, we call them “thankfuls” and everyone says what they are feeling thankful for that day at bedtime. It can be a little silly or very serious. It can be something big or something very small. The actual “thankful” doesn’t matter. What matters is the act of finding the good in your day and ending the night on that positive note.
If you already journal:
There are so many ways people journal. Some use planners, some use notebooks. If you are a journaler, this is great opportunity and space for you to add a shot of gratitude.
Here are some ideas:
- Try to list 100 things you’re grateful for. Repeat monthly or quarterly.
- List 3 points of gratitude on your daily planner page each morning.
- Pick something or someone you are grateful for and use it as a journal prompt; elaborate on all the reasons you are thankful for this.
- Flip it around and think about all the people who might be grateful for you. Make a list.
If you’re not a journaler:
I received the most thoughtful gift from my friend Amanda last year, and I think it jumpstarted my regular gratitude mindset habit.
The gift she gave me was the Start Today Journal, which is a tool for goal setting with a gratitude element built into it.
This notebook is undated (so there’s no guilty reminder if you miss a few days…or months). It doesn’t take very long to fill out each day (5 minutes tops), and its simple format makes it easy to stay on track.
Of course, you DON’T HAVE TO BUY ANYTHING. Rachel Hollis explains how to do this ritual in her RISE Podcast Episode 72, and you can do it in any old notebook. It’s simply a great framework to get you started.
Get Out There
I mentioned the “art walk” I took last week, and this is a great way to focus on gratitude as well. You can take a “grateful walk” with your kids or alone. You can do it near your home, or you can drive to a new place. You can be on a city street or you can be hiking a trail.
I promise you that wherever you try this, you will be overcome with opportunities to find things to be thankful for. You just have to take the time to slow down and actively look for them.
Heck.. you don’t even have to be walking to do this. You could notice things from the car window as you drive by them.
Venturing outside of your bubble has a way of highlighting the beauty of life. It opens up your eyes.
If you already incoporate gratitude mindfulness practices in your life, let me know your favorite strategies in the comments below. I’m always looking for new tips and tricks to help me grow in this area… I don’t think you can ever be too grateful.
If you made it to this point in the post, thank you for sticking with me. I’m still in the process of figuring out what the heck I want to make of this blog, so I appreciate your time and feedback as I explore what kinds of topics feel right.
I hope you find so much beauty in your world this week.
About the author: Suzette is a Northern Colorado professional organizer providing organizing services to Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley, Windsor, Timnath and surrounding areas. She subscribes wholeheartedly to the idea that smart systems and some up front organizing work make more time for busy women to enjoy doing what they love. She has been married for over 10 years and is a mother of 2 school age children.