Hold onto your gratitude

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I want to share a simple idea that came to me recently. I was listening to a podcast of someone wiser than I talk about how social media can often be the reason we feel less great about ourselves and the world around us. These platforms are built with the purpose of giving us more stuff similar to what we are already taking in. If we happen to be taking in a lot of bad news, then we're going to get more bad news pushed into our feeds.

The podcaster went on to talk about in order for us to get into a better mindset, we need to hang around in spaces that make us feel more gratitude and joy, but when our feeds have been programmed to only send bad juju, how do we go about collecting good magic instead?

It made me think of this box that sits on the mantle above our fireplace. The box was a gift given to my wife and me by a friend, and the purpose of the box is to take love notes and memories and place them in the box randomly so that we can go back and look at them again and be reminded about our cherished moments and ideas. I don't know if my wife does it often, but I'll get into the box once in a while and read back through the years of snippets from our past. I love my wife dearly, and the box reminds me how much she means to me.

Thinking about the box made me think of you. It made me think about how you might be able to create a box of your own, where you store all of the notes of gratitude, love, and appreciation you get from others. Then you can go back to it when you're not feeling your best and read through the notes to remind yourself about all the good things you've given others.

It doesn't have to be a physical box on your mantle. It can be a folder in your Gmail that holds all of your complimentary emails, or it could be a space in your Evernote, Notion, Trello, or other note collecting app; anything that allows you to place the emails, notes, photos into one space that only you can see and can turn to whenever you want.

Gratitude Box Rules

This is not a Pinterest board though. It's not about collecting a bunch of pictures of kittens, babies, and inspirational quotes. These notes have to be directed at you specifically. I suppose if your best friend sent you a picture of their cute kid, then you could put that in the box.

You don't get to curate the good news. If someone sends a thank you note just because you sent them a thing in a timely manner, and that note made you feel good when you read it, then it goes in the box. Do not toss away the good stuff just because it feels insignificant at the moment. When you revisit the box, that simple note may still take you right back to the original moment, and it may be just the thing that helps you feel better. So stuff the box with anything that where you made someone happy and it made you happy to hear it.

If you have a particularly good moment that wasn't documented in a note or image, then write yourself a short note about what happened and how it made you feel. Then put that note in the box. Be concise, but specific, so it takes you back to that moment in an instant.

Finally, you should go back into the box anytime you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, upset or lonely, but more importantly, schedule an appointment to go back in and read through every single note. Give yourself enough time to collect new items, but once or twice a year, dedicate some time to read everything through, even the simple thank you letters. Each note may have only a tiny impact, but collectively, they have the power to change your world view.

I just started my own gratitude box, and there's not much in there yet, but even when I read through it before I wrote this post, it made me feel good enough to share the idea with you.

Now I want you to do the same. It may seem silly or trite, but I promise, this works. Start a folder in your Gmail or Outlook, and then go back through your email archives and put anything that made you feel good about yourself into that folder. Also go through your trash, just in case you deleted something you thought was insignificant at the time, but made you smile at the time.

When someone comments on your blog posts or social media updates, screenshot those isolated notes and put the images in a folder on your computer, or in your notes app.

I cannot promise that the gratitude box will save your soul from all the ugly demons in the world, but it will pick you up on days you feel weakest, and it will put a sword in your handle so you can rejoin the battle.