Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Take On Gratitude.

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

Last week's paint party got off to a rocky start, but you'll be happy to know that I kept at it throughout the week, had some serious fun, and even learned some new things -- one of which I plan to share next week. I think it'll appeal to painters, fabric artists, and... anyone else who likes making cool stuff.

This week, though, I thought I'd share my thoughts on gratitude... which are a little bit different. 

Thanks, but no thanks?

Over the past year or so, I've noticed that gratitude lists (or journals) have become popular. Everyone keeps one, and the consensus seems to be that they're pretty darn awesome -- and that they work for everything from depression to low self-esteem.

All that said, would it surprise you to learn that I'm not into gratitude lists?

Gratitude is great, but...

This doesn't mean I'm not into gratitude. It also doesn't mean that I think people who keep gratitude lists are silly.

(Unless you're grateful for bedbugs, raisins, and creepy clowns. Then you're just weird.)

Being aware of and thankful for what we have is a wonderful thing! Take it from someone who lost the ability to enjoy most of her favorite things for over a year. I think of it like a daily vitamin for mental health.

It's also a great way to improve an ordinary, run-of-the-mill bad day. Did you know that I have a tent on my bed? That Mr. Sequin made it for me, and that it's covered in rainbow fabric that says Imaginations Unbound? It's true. And whenever I'm feeling crappy, I just remind myself that I have a tent, and I can't help it. I start grinning like a flamingo with a trampoline.

 (Flamingos love trampolines almost as much as they love soup!)

The thing is, gratitude lists can only get us to a certain point. Sometimes we have more than ordinary, run-of-the-mill bad days. Sometimes we have problems, whether they're moderate or severe, and whether it's one part of life that's gone wrong or the whole dang thing, and we need to take things a wee bit further.

A Different Kind of List

I should also mention that I'm not against list making in any way. But when I have a problem that goes beyond crankiness, I make lists of a different kind.

The resource list

The first is a Resource List. On paper or in my head, I think of all the things that could help me solve my problem . When my shoulders started hurting again last summer and I was afraid I'd have to go through all that pain and stress again, I realized that this didn't have to happen. Because I had:

  • Not one, but two awesome massage therapists I could call.
  • A bunch of physical therapy exercises I could do.
  • Some stretches, most of which I'd developed when I couldn't do the prescribed ones.
  • An ice pack.
  • A heat pack.
  • And if things got worse, an amazing doctor doctor and a brilliant physical therapist who could get me on the right track.

I put all of these excerpt for the last one to good use, and I was well enough to go to the Bead and Button Show and take my class. My shoulders have felt close to normal since then.

The action list

The next list is an Action List. If you've been following this blog awhile, you know that I make a lot of these.

The actions I take are different for different situations, but the first steps are the same across the board: admitting to the problem and accepting the way I feel. If gratitude is a vitamin, then this is like a shot (or at its most challenging... surgery). At first glance it seems scary, but the effect it has is worth a little pain.

A darker side to gratitude is that people sometimes think being grateful means they can't feel anything else! That facing problems when they have so much to be thankful for makes them terrible, miserable people. May I just say, this is a load of hogwash? Feeling like you need to change your situation doesn't make you bad. It makes you human -- a human in need of an action list!

The proud of list

There's one most list I make, and it's a great thing for self-esteem. That's the Proud Of List. It's exactly what it sounds like -- a running list of things I'm proud of doing.

I used to keep a file on my computer and add to it every day -- to the bottom of the list so I had to re-read it all the time. This really helped a lot, but I fell out of the habit and just started listing things in my head at night. Now that Bravery is my word for the year, I remind myself of all the brave things I've done before I go to sleep.

And of course, if there are any problems I've solved using the action list and the resources list, I praise myself for that, too.

Live Your Gratitude.

For me, there's one more piece of the gratitude puzzle. It's also a catchy little phrase: I live my gratitude!

It's nice to acknowledge the good things in life -- like a vitamin, remember? But it's super duper nice with awesomesauce on top to go from writing things down to getting into them. To being in the moment and really experiencing them.

  • When I feel grateful for my beads, I go look at them. I play with them. I make bead creatures with them.

  • When I'm thankful for friends, I email them. Or I send them presents. Or I invite them over for dinner and little pies.

  • When I'm thankful for Mr. Sequin... I go hug him! Or I stare at him with big, goofy Bambi eyes until he thinks I'm crazy (or hungry).

For me, living my gratitude is like a big, healthy bowl of vegetarian soup; warm, tasty, and filling. Vitamins are a great supplement, but there's nothing like getting nutrients right from the source.

So that's my take on gratitude.  It's part of my larger life philosophy, and it's served me well in the short time since I came up with it. I hope you find it helpful, or at the very least, that it gives you something to think about!

Now it's your turn: what's your approach to gratitude?

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing, and have a sequintastic day!


  1. Sarah, I have to tell you how much I enjoy your weekly doses of wisdom, even when I'm not in beading/crafty mood. You have such an encouraging and hands-on attitude to dealing with the little or bigger obstacles of life and beading. I always feel a little better and inspired and smile when I've read your posts. ;-)

    1. Renate, thank you so much!!! I'm so glad we're blog friends, and I can't tell you how much it means to me that my writing and ideas have an impact on you. Friends like you make my blogging experience. <3

  2. Ahhh I am so with you on this... I like your action list, I like your staring at Mr. Sequin with big googly bambi eyes and a tent - well that just rocks! You were in my head yesterday because I went into a Hobby Lobby for the first time while the Superhero went to Staples. I came home with two bags of blues and hot pinks-yeah! You were my action plan yesterday. xox

    1. Corrine, I'm excited about your sequins -- they sound beautiful!! I can't wait to see what you make with them. :)

  3. Hey Sarah, I agree with all of the above. I was going to write all the things that I do, but I think the most important thing that I have learned is that you must share your gratitude with those that have made your life better. Other wise how will they know. You are an inspiration to me.
    Thank you.

    1. Nicole, you're so right about sharing your gratitude with the people we care about. I've had a lot of people come and go in my life, and the good-byes were always saddest when I didn't get the chance to tell people they mattered.

      For the record, you matter a whole lot! You inspire me, too. And you make blogging extra fun. <3

  4. What a great post, Sarah. I love the resource list idea and am going to steal it. And the proud of list - wonderful. Imagine if the world focused on what it was proud of...

    1. Thanks, Skylar! I'm so glad you're going to snag the resource list idea -- feel free to share it with everyone you know. It's helped me a ton. I used to fall apart at the slightest little problem, and it would take me days to recover. Now I just start plotting and planning and listing, and it gets easier as time goes on. <3

      The proud of list is one of the only things that's really worked for my self-esteem. So many of the popular psychology tricks we learn about, like talking to ourselves in a mirror, just seemed silly to me. And the larger my list gets, the more energy I have to add new things to it. :)

  5. Great post! Thanks for sharing :) I love making lists & that definitely is how I deal with stress.

    1. Thanks, Linda! <3

      Yay, another list maker! I like to make mine with little boxes so I can check things off when I'm done. There's something so satisfying about doing that!

  6. Great post, Sarah!! I totally love your tent and I haven't even seen it. How cool! But, mostly I love your list ability. I can't seem to stick to a list. :( I have mental lists, though. Does that count? (I more or less stick to them.)

    I've never heard of gratitude lists, but I agree with you. Gratitude is in the moment. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy, so it's easy for me to give in to those moments. :)


    1. Thanks, Tela!

      Mental lists totally count as lists! I say, whatever works for you is the best thing to do. :)

  7. I love your lists, I will have to add a few of your ideas to my own lists, especially the "live your gratitude" list.

    1. Thanks, Debbie!

      I'm so happy you're going to add some of my ideas to your lists! Let me know if they work for you. :)

  8. Sarah, you are so good at clarifying things! I have all of these lists depending upon need, but they're not so clearly defined. This mornings list was the 'Overwhelmed by Abundance of Options and Limited Time List', where I tried to decide what to do today in the face of multiple deadlines and one really fun, non-deadline. I think it would be your Action List. Pros and cons of all. No way to fit them all into the limited time at hand. No reversing the clock. What's the best short and long term answer, my brain asks. Maybe I'll ask, 'what would Sarah do?'. :)

    1. WWSD? I love it!!!

      I'm glad I could help you out! I know how it feels to have things you need to do and things you really, really want to do. I'm toying with this idea that every day, I'll first do something urgent that's been looming over my head and then do something fun to reward myself. Might be something that would work for you!


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