The word that changed my life…

…gratitude.

Looking back at posts chronologically on Facebook through services like “on this day” has proven really educational. Not about the world as a whole or anything grand-scheme like that, but about myself and the growth I’ve gone through since getting it when I was seventeen. I have gone through (several) self-deprecation phases, discovered and lost a couple passions, been more  (and at times less) politically active than is physically healthy- anyone who’s ever devoted time to campaigns can tell you what I mean.

A huge paradigm shift happened three years ago this month when, lost and confused after college like many other millennials, I was searching for something- anything- to relieve me of the crushing anxiety that is caused by the post-graduate slump. I took the “gratitude challenge” for November- one status every day for something I am thankful for. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. The intense fact is that a social media “challenge actually changed how I looked at the world; a couple of my friends did the challenge with me, so I was held accountable (and you bet my competitive self wanted to post just as much or more than them) and actually thought each day about the part of my life I wanted to share with hundreds of my nearest and dearest on the interwebs.

What was really cool was pretty soon, I was waking up thinking about all the cool tiny moments that had happened the day before. I noticed the particular shade of blue that the sky was that day, or how you could see the turns on trains if you looked through the windows at the cars in front or behind yours (no seriously, try this. it’s cool), or even the guy next to me laughing as I rocked out to Taylor Swift on your otherwise boring commute. And I was finding that instead of soul-crushing bouts of anxiety I would often find myself unconsciously meditating on all of my blessings. I got so caught up in all the amazing things both big and small that I broke the cycle of stress. It didn’t go away, but I found my thing, the thing that would get me through the in between times.

Fast forward a few years… I have gotten a lot of recognition recently, even today a friend posted on Facebook “I wish I could have the strength of Laura. Seeing her positive posts everyday and her ability to strive (despite the obstacles) motivates me to keep pushing forward. I love a good hard working woman to look up to <3” And yeah, I have to admit that I love receiving affirmations like that- it feels good! The thing is though, it’s a conscious decision. I don’t wake up in the morning ready to do battle with the world and be this badass woman that strives to be a role model… I just look for things to love and start there- it’s that simple.

Honestly, I don’t think people understand that three years happened between who I was then and who I am now, and that after three more years I’m going to be a completely different person again. There are people in my life that don’t understand that anxiety is still a huge factor in my life, and some days I literally spend a majority of my time either trying to maintain my mood swings from it or apologizing for words spurred by the figurative blinders that anxiety puts on for me…. There are also people who only ever see the strong, positive, inspiring messages I put out to the world, and forget to read all of my truths. And of course there are even people who only ever see my short comings and past mistakes. In truth, most of my days are a mix of all of the above. I am CONSTANTLY seeing things in lights that others don’t or won’t, but I also have those doubts in the back of my mind that never quite leave… It’s a give and take I suppose.  

So here’s my challenge to you: Start your own gratitude challenge. Whether it’s on social media, in person, over text, or whatever platform you choose… just do it. An easy way to stay on track is to invite a friend or colleague to do the same- just like working out, they will inadvertently become your accountability partner. Start small, just one thing a day- before you know it, you’ll go from “How am I going to find one thing today?” to “How am I going to cut it down to only one thing today?” and THAT is a really cool place to be in.

Hey Creeper
Photo cred: Lacey M Carroll Photography 
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