Today is my 37th birthday. Today I am grateful for many things: this fruitful life that has given me love, friendships, challenges and setbacks. I am grateful for the people in my life who have contributed to my happiness and those who have presented me with views of myself that need a little work. I am grateful for the good, the bad, and the inbetween.
Grat·i·tude (/ɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/): The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
I began an online daily gratitude journal two years ago. I opened an Instagram account (@apesy_sophia) and started on January 1st, 2015, sharing what I was grateful for on that day. The inspiration to share my daily life publicly originated from attending the Summer Institute for Educators at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. It was there that I learned about the science of happiness from Dacher Keltner, and that one of the greatest contributors to happiness is showing gratitude.
An observer of my life may ask why I would be seeking happiness through gratitude. I grew up in a house in the suburbs with both parents and two sisters. I had pets, horses and played sports throughout my childhood. As an adult, I became a teacher and have enjoyed success professionally. On all fronts, I was doing ok. So why pursue happiness?
“The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to find the pearls.” ~ Chris Gardner, “The Pursuit of Happyness”
With the research of gratitude as the catalyst, I launched a personal journey that would take me many places. This journey did not have a preconceived road map. If anything, I was riding blind, following my passions and instincts, guided by my gratitude practice.
With my Instagram account, I began taking one photo a day (sometimes more when there was cause) and writing about what I was most grateful for. I started looking for pearls in the most ordinary of places. By committing to the practice of gratitude, I began creating my own pearls, planting seeds of sand that would either grow and develop, layer upon layer, or get washed away by the tides of everyday life.
Some of my posts reflect those growing pearls, the events of my life that are positive and contribute immediately to emotions of joy, warmth and love. Other posts reflect elements of life that are challenging, difficult and disappointing. As I really started to dig into the depths of my practice, I discovered more about myself.
Social media is a powerful forum that allows anyone to share their ideas, points of view and experiences with the world. It can also be a daunting and damaging place, full of trolls and shamers, projecting their hurt through a keyboard and screen. By sharing my innermost emotions on this gratitude journey, I was opening myself up to being both admired and attacked. It has been the most pleasant of surprises that all of the comments from my followers have been ones of kindness, inspiration and gratitude.
So what did I learn in a year of sharing gratitude? I learned that a distinct attitude of gratitude can be the change agent in any situation. I have become much more aware of the micro elements in life that contribute to my overall happiness. I have developed relationships and friendships based in vulnerability, trust and mutual respect. I learned and accepted that sharing my joy and sadness through vulnerability is something to be admired. My approach to everyday life has moved from the mundane to the creation of pearls.
As I embark on the second year of my daily gratitude journal, I want to develop this practice into a self-study: as happiness lies in the sharing of gratitude, how can I help others do the same? I invite you to join me and embark on your own journey of gratitude. What are you grateful for in this very moment? Start small and you may be surprised where you end up!
Author: April Prescott
Author Bio: April Prescott is an educator with over 15 years of experience in the classroom. Since 2005 her work has been focused on teaching children with special needs or who have been affected by trauma. During this time she has completed training with multiple organizations, all with the aim to help children and their families navigate difficult situations and events with compassion. Her goal is to bring mindfulness and trauma-informed practice to teachers, parents, and caregivers, mentoring them towards increased resilience. April graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Language and Literacy. She is conversationally fluent in American Sign Language as part of her work with the Connect Society in Edmonton, Alberta. She is now the Individual Program Plan and Special Needs Coordinator for Aboriginal Head Start in Edmonton.
April has completed the Year-Long Mindfulness Educator program through Mindful Schools and is a 200 hour certified Yoga Teacher. She has also completed training in the Neurosequential Model for Educators through the Child Trauma Academy and Dr. Bruce Perry. In her free time, April is bringing mindfulness to her rugby club, riding horses, practicing yoga and playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Link to social media or website: https://www.instagram.com/apesy_sophia/