sunday life: how gratefulness helps my life

In the aftermath of the recent MasterChef finale, I want to share one special observation with you. Just after she was announced winner you’ll recall Julie told everyone – the contestants, the chefs, me, the judges, the crew – how grateful she was we’d helped change her life.

On set we’d stoically held it together to that point. But this, well, this released something burning and goosepimply in the collective. And we all burst into tears, like a finger had been pulled from the hole in the bulging dyke.

Tom cried. George cried. So did Manu the grande boeuf-y French chef, and the cameramen. I cried and from what I hear, it was at this precise moment everyone at home watching cried. It was awkward, but oddly liberating, yeah?

The same, I hear, happens in footy changerooms after big matches. I love it. The captain gives his rousing thank you speech and the players, almost on cue, cry. Geelong captain Tom Harley told me about it recently: “We don’t cry any other time. Something weird and deep happens…I don’t know what it is.”

I do. It’s The Gratitude Effect.

This week I’ve been grateful. I’ve greedily chased that unapologetic, spontaneous and soul-uprooting feeling that being around gratefulness emits. And tried to find a way to hold on to it.

For those new to this column, each week I explore ideas that claim to make life happier and richer, to see if they do mine. And can in turn, yours. If this column were a Beyonce album, today’s installment is that extra track at the end where she croons gratitude to her mum, her manicurist, the dog walker and, invariably, Jesus.

As happenstance would have it, on Tuesday I found myself sitting in a hotel lobby drinking tap water with self-help guru Dr John Demartini, he of The Secret fame.

Self-help gurus are great. They make themselves very easy to spot in a lobby. They all, in my experience, wear black casual suiting (with a kerchief), neat eyebrows, their hair foppish, and they bounce when they walk. They also speak in dazzling motivational soundbites which, you’ll find, are captialised for poignant effect and trademarked (“Waiter, can we have two waters, When The BreakThrough Moment Strikestm, please?”).

So Demartini owns The Gratitude Effect. At least the trademarked book by the same name. And his shtick is encouraging us all to write a gratitude journal. He says (and, indeed, has embroidered on his cloth keyboard cover): “What You Think About and Thank About, You Bring About”.  And his doctrine is simple: take time daily to jot down the things you’re grateful for.

This guy’s been writing a gratitude journal for 37 years. He shows me his 2009 edition. It’s the size of the Koran and brimful with thanks for being able to hang Richard Branson and the President of Ireland. I’m Officially Bamboozledtm.

As the good doctor shared, the very act of reflecting for a few minutes (he prescribes, pedantically, 4-15) on the good stuff in our lives creates a congruency between our goals and their fulfillment. This moment of recognition that things are geling cooperatively makes you feel synchronicity and oneness with the flow of life. Which feels good, really good.

It’s like in that moment of gratefulness, everything makes sense. We realize all is OK and the world and the people in it are working perfectly, and we don’t need to interfere for it to do so. This is a massive, gulp-for-air feeling, I find. The bigness of life whacks us in the solarplexus. Which is why we cry.

The act of writing down your grateful thoughts is important, Demartini says. It catalyses more of the good stuff. This far into our glasses of water, his soundbites were hurting my head and insulting my straight-talking sensibilities. So I’ll put it plainly for the rest of us: if you water the roses, instead of the weeds, the roses will grow and you’ll get more roses, less weeds. That is, consertdely focusing on good things means you’ll get more of them. Hello, a recipe for happiness if I ever I ingested one!

Now, I must confess I’ve been writing down three things I’m grateful for in a purple notebook every night before I get into bed for about four weeks now. I don’t thank Jesus. I just sit in the feeling of gratefulness. I feel the first thing that occurs to me, spontaneously. And write it down. Usually they’re banal things, like “salmon on special the very day I go to buy salmon. Hoorah!”. I don’t seek a result. I just seek that expand-to-the-edges-of-my-being congruency and feeling of sweet relief. And, hey, I reckon there’s a Few Less Weeds in My Patchtm. of late.

Share this post