Getting My Sh*t Together Through Gratitude

This is a boring trope. Everyone from Oprah to the Dali Lama has told us to keep a gratitude journal. They say the benefits of doing so are numerous including being more present and being happier. I have tried to keep a gratitude journal before, writing in it every night before bed. But usually by that time I’ve forgotten what’s happened during the day.

I’m not saying I hate my job, but I’m not saying I love it either. It’s a struggle right now. I feel like I’ve done everything that I can to make the office a little less stressful. It’s just not enough though. So I turned podcasts for inspiration. After listening to many, many experts tell the audience that we can’t change the actions of others we can only change our reactions to those actions I was about to give up. When you’re very stressed out that bumper sticker psychology just isn’t going to cut it. But in the last podcast I listened to it was suggested that until the stressful situation ends we should keep a work gratitude journal.

I have a Field Notes notebook sitting on my desk right in front of my keyboard. I pull it out and write down what I’m grateful for at the moment it happens. Some days it’s a struggle to find something to be grateful for but committing to writing something down has me looking for things. What about this craptastic day stands out? Even in all the angst, what is one thing that went right today?

Yesterday was a particularly bad day. One of those is this really all there is to my life kind of days. Mid-day my co-worker comes in and tells me that she has finally found her office key. Gone went the bleakness of the day. She’s been looking for that key for about four months. She was genuinely happy to find it, and relieved too, I’m sure. Seeing how happy she was just made my day. It might sound silly to anyone else but when things are bleak any good thing deserves recognition of gratitude.

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Writing things down has also helped me evaluate my past jobs. I started thinking about what made those jobs good. I wish I had had a work gratitude journal back then. I may have saved myself a lot of perceived angst and problems.

I have two rules for myself:

  1. Nothing negative goes into the gratitude journal.
  2. I will name names in my journal, and that’s okay.

Here’s an example about not putting anything negative into my gratitude journal. I was recently interviewed for another job. I was absolutely sure I was going to get it, but I lacked the financial training to do the job. I was not offered the job in the end. But the person who interviewed me called me to tell me that I was not going to be hired, and then gave me some excellent feedback about my interview. She told me how much she enjoyed talking to me. She said that she thought I had a great personality, and that I would definitely fit in in their office. She also expressed hope that I would be able to find a job in their department some day because I needed to be working with other creative people in a design related field.

WOW! That’s the best rejection I’ve ever received! I didn’t get the job for very good reasons (I stink at financials). So I wrote this in my journal: I am grateful for the positive feedback I got about my job interview. I didn’t mention that I didn’t get the job because I want to look back at that entry and remember that I did actually knock that interview out of the park.

My second rule has a purpose. My desk is very public. I’m the secretary after all. If someone should sit down at my desk and see my work gratitude journal and see their name they will see is something good about them! In an office that struggles with toxicity seeing something good about yourself truly helps.

Being grateful really puts things into perspective. It helps me see what the important things are, it helps (sometimes) pull me out of the doldrums of working in an toxic environment. I look forward to it every day.

Getting My Sh*t Together with Water & Caffeine Free Diet Coke

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Sh*t tastes good

My office recently moved to a brand new space. I work at a university, and our student union finished major upgrades in January. We moved into our new space the last week of January. For the most part it’s been amazing. Our previous building is on the national historic register. It’s at least 100 years old, which means it has a significant amount of problems, bad odors, and air conditioning units that can’t keep up in these modern times.

Needless to say the new space is stink free, with new desks, furniture, and several initiatives to keep the office EPA friendly, green friendly, and the staff healthy. Even with all it’s amazing improvements and modern add-ons, there is a downside.

We are one level up from the food court.

We all said that we would have to be really conscious of bringing our own lunches or we’d gain weight really fast. Well, guess what?

I gained 10 pounds since moving into our new space. I no longer have to walk half a mile to my office and another half a mile to my car every day. Grabbing a soda and a snack is super easy because we have vending machines on each level of the building. The university bookstore and mini-mart are all easily accessible.

Because of the weight gain and eating bad food a lot of problems have come up. My restless leg syndrome (RLS) is totally out of hand. My skin is breaking out as if I’d entered puberty all over again. Overall I feel blech. I know exactly what I needed to do but am not looking forward to it.

But it’s time to grow up. I’m taking some first steps because it has to start slowly with me otherwise I’ll give up. Also, withdrawal headaches are a b*tch. Here’s my plan:

  1. Giving up caffeine! I didn’t think I would ever say that but there it is. I’ve done this before, so I know I can do it. It’s the headaches that kill me. (Follow up: For a few days those headaches were really bad, like Fight Club punched in the face hurting.)
  2. Drinking more water! I’ve done this before too. I gave up all other liquids and only drank water for a long time. Then I couldn’t sleep and I gave in to the soda again. Well, now I realize that there will always be times when I can’t sleep and the soda really doesn’t do anything to help me feel better. I just like the taste and the bubblies.
  3. Taking supplements! I’m taking a probiotic twice a day for good tummy health. I take a giant Biotin supplement (that also has the right amount of iron in it to help with my anemia) three times a day. Mid-day I take my vitamin B12 for overall goodness.

That’s where I’m starting. I’m Day 3 Week 2 (D3:W2?) without a caffeinated soda. The headaches aren’t too bad, more like a teeny bit of pressure that could also be allergies. Tylenol comes in handy. I started adding more water too. I picked a great time because my Work-BFF just started his water regimen again. We keep laughing about how many times we have to run to the bathroom to pee.

But it’s worth it. Already I’ve seen a decrease in the amount of RLS flare ups. My skin is so much better! Seriously, my face looks amazing compared to how it looked a week and a half ago. I feel good. Feeling good means I’m more creative, I’m less stressed. All good things. But I had to figure this out. No one could tell me this.

Maybe life does begin at 40.