If 2016 were shoes, they’d be crocs. And not worn in an ironic Christopher Kane kind of way as currently advocated by Vogue. No. 2016 was the kind of crocs that are worn by a fat, balding middle aged man, named something like “Murray”, down at the beach with a pair of yellow and aqua geometric patterned euro-shorts. And Murray’s a racist. That’s the kind of year 2016 was.
On a global level, the world lost legends of the likes of Prince, David Bowie and Muhammad Ali. And then, to add insult to injury, 2016 gave us Brexit and Trump. On a personal level, two broken wrists and a personal loss were enough for me to end the year on a low.
So when January rolled around I decided I had to pull myself out of it, make some changes and turn 2017 into a pair of shoes I’d actually like to wear. At least a nice pair of comfy flats.
For a long time, I’ve read and heard a lot about practising gratitude. The rationale is basically that if you focus more on what you have than on what you don’t have, you reduce all those toxic emotions and thoughts that bring you down – envy, social comparisons, lack of empathy etc. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of scientific studies into the benefits of actively feeling grateful: lower stress levels, better sleep, improved physical health, stronger relationships, mental resilience.
So why have I always resisted getting on board the gratitude train? Because I’m a cynic/slacker and it’s far easier to wallow in self pity and get annoyed by those cheery people who always seem so delighted with everything (every damn thing – it can’t be genuine) than it is to actually do something about it. But no longer! In the interests of research and self-improvement, I decided to keep a gratitude journal for sixty-six days. Why sixty-six days, you ask? Because the Internet told me that’s how long it takes to form a habit.
Each night I wrote down one thing from that day that I was grateful for. In my first entries, I ticked off all the big ones: gratitude for family, friends, career, pizza… Then it started to get a bit more tricky – especially on groundhog days. You know those days where nothing particularly interesting happens? It’s was hard to find something in those days that stood out. But because I had to record something, I’d cast my mind back over the day’s events and was surprised that I could actually find something that made me feel happy, no matter how insignificant it seemed. Like a really, really good cup of coffee. Or, more specifically: “Today I am grateful for french-fries, which make hangovers slightly less horrendous.”
During this time, there was a dark day in London with the Westminster terrorist attack. On a day like that it can be hard to find anything to be grateful for. But while reflecting on it that night, I found myself thinking about those brave and selfless people who were at the scene of the attack and who rushed to provide support and help to those who were injured. These displays of strength and compassion made me so grateful for the goodness in humanity in the face of horror and tragedy.
So here I am on day sixty-six, taking stock. I’m definitely happier than I was sixty-six days ago. The small things that used to drive me crazy don’t get to me as much as they used to. In fact, I have become one of those cheery people who delight in small pleasures (just not in an in-your-face, born-again Christian kind of way). But more than that, I’ve gained a focussed perspective on life. I see so clearly what it is that makes me happy. I love writing about the things I am most passionate about in life (fashion, travel, related life lessons).
Next steps? Well, the gratitude journal has become a habit, and I’ve decided to amp up it up a notch. I’ll now record three things per day that I’m grateful for. I’ll do more of what I love (blog posts ahoy!). And I’ll keep on relishing my daily flat white.
So far, if 2017 turns out to be a shoe it will be a delightfully embellished, strappy high-heel sandal worn very stylishly by me to a fabulous party with a whimsically, floaty multi-tiered dress. And sequins. Lots of sequins.