Here’s What Happened When…I Tried a Gratitude Challenge

To say this past month has been stressful would be a serious understatement. Between surviving the holiday rush, undergoing changes within my personal life and feeling like I don’t have the time to balance it all…well, let’s just say things have been a bit crazy.

In fact, day one of this challenge was one of the most chaotic days I have had in a while. Although weeks earlier I agreed to write about 10 things I felt grateful for every single day for a month, I now felt tired, overwhelmed and not very grateful. Everything and anything seemed to be going wrong, from spilling my coffee to arguing with my brother. But after what felt like the longest day ever, I sat down with a pen and paper anyways and wrote:

#1.

Then I just sat there and tried to come up with a single reason to feel grateful. But all I could think about was how angry I was and how unfair life had been treating me lately. I literally said aloud, “This is the worst time to have signed up for a challenge about being thankful.”

But I didn’t give up. Instead, I became sarcastic.

I said I was grateful to have gotten on the wrong subway because I got to practice my navigation skills. And that I was glad I spilled my coffee because then I got to test out the new detergent I just bought. Rather than attempt to think up these grandiose, cheesy reasons why I just love life, I thought of the silliest and most minuscule reasons to be thankful.

And in a moment comparable to finally nailing crow pose in your one millionth yoga class, I started to feel, well, positive.

I know, I know. Saying you’re grateful for a few silly things and then magically feeling happier seems like something out of a fairy tale. I’m not going to lie and say all my problems just melted away and that my world changed forever, because (shocker) it didn’t. But it did do something even more important:

It changed my perspective.

Turns out, the so-called worst time to start a challenge about being thankful ended up happening when I needed it most. When nothing seems to be going your way, it’s harder to see the things that actually are. As the days went on, I began to think of more and more things to feel grateful for in my life: my health, my family, my favorite fitness instructor—just to name a few.

On the days it felt harder to remember the good things, I worked on smaller things: the fact that it didn’t rain today, that my train was delayed by only a few minutes and my endless errands allowed me get outside and breathe some fresh air.

When things get tough, it becomes much easier to complain rather than see the bright side. Spending five minutes a day practicing gratitude taught me a very important lesson: Instead of relying on your outcomes to determine your happiness (like not getting a text back from the guy you’re dating), rely more on your perspective (he wasn’t the right one for me and now I’m free to meet other people). Showing what you’re grateful for soon translates to becoming a more positive, open-minded person.

And now, just like that gratitude challenge I didn’t feel like doing, things don’t seem so bad after all.

Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.