Joyful Things: The New Test Everyone's Trying

Have you noticed how lots of people are doing these Gratitude Challenges? (Also known as the Seven Days of Positive tests.) Apparently they're like the 5:2 Diet for your mind. Every day you make a conscious effort to stop whining, ranting or being hyper-critical in order to retrain your brain to think pleasant, positive, meaningful and joyful thoughts instead. Even shooting an Instagram pic of flowers will calm the mind. 

You start with seven days—hence the name. Although some people stretch it to 30 days. Which is impressive.

Apparently it changes your outlook on life. For the better.

It's fascinating. 

Here's The Huffington Post's take on it here

And here's author Maggie Alderson's example, here. 
She's on Day 48. That's serious gratitude. I would have lost the list on Day Three.

Seeing how much it's changed people's attitudes fascinated me. I had to try. 
So this was my past week. My Seven Days of Good Things. And believe me I had to search for the joy cos it's been a shonky week. (Oh sorry, the attitude still needs a tweak!) 

The verdict? It really does retrain your brain and improve your attitude.

Monday morning, Melbourne Airport: Heading to Sydney for work. Qantas has kindly done a 6-page feature on my new New York book. My seat copy has kiddie scribbles all over page 2 and 3 of the article. It appears to be a picture of a penis. Take magazine as souvenir anyway, then steal a fresh copy from Business Class on way out. 

On the upside, new Qantas uniforms are gorgeous. Compliment a flight attendant but she scowls and says they're unbearably hot in summer. Think she needs to do a Gratitude Challenge.

Sydney: Have grumpy exchange with Budget people about dirty hire car, then remember Gratitude Challenge and smile thinly. Budget woman backs off nervously. The M1 Motorway into town is lined with bougainvillea: red, orange, hot pink. It's spectacular. 

Sydney is balmy and sunny and the yachts on the harbour are waving hello; it's gobsmackingly beautiful.

Have meeting at Watson's Bay Hotel. Shake head repeatedly at glorious Sydney view. 

Here's the vista from my Loft Suite. 
This gratitude thing is going well.

Sydney, Part 2: Finish business meeting and head to No Chintz for quick visit. 
Chatty salesgirl is delightful. Bolts are beautiful. Bliss.

Laugh when I hear the salesgirl say to someone on the phone (someone from the sister store?):
"Bring me some cool stuff! NO MORE STRIPES!"

Stop by Ici et La for more fabrics. Owner is incredibly nice. When I hear the sound of a sewing machine he invites me into the secret studio. Where I discover this: Quite possibly the most gorgeous seamstress ever.

Next day: Rise at 5AM to tackle drive to Canberra: four hours of $#(&%$%$ motorway madness. Both directions. Surely people don't do the M5 commute to Sydney EVERY SINGLE DAY???? 

Gratitude has flown out the window somewhere between the tunnel and Bowral.

Canberra: National Library is amazing. Architecture is amazing. Bookshop is amazing. Librarians are gratitude-less. (That said, they DO have a difficult job.) One admonishes me for using a pen, and hands me a pencil for taking notes; another says I have to sign a waiver to take photos of papers with iPhone.

I keep apologising, profusely.

Then, a third confiscates my handbag as it's 5mm too big to take into Reading Room. Says everything has to go into plastic bags. Which are 5mm bigger than my handbag.

Small sighs. Then pencil lead breaks.

Canberra, Part 2. Still at National Library. Told off for shuffling papers too loudly. 

Canberra, Part 3. Still at National Library. Archive boxes are all messed up and papers out of order. Forgotten all gratitude. On the upside have discovered wonderful things. Just look at these old images.

Melbourne: Finally fly back to Melbourne, followed by 3-hour drive home. Monash Freeway is a mess. Make decision about business venture that's long overdue, having sought sage legal advice. Feel sad, very sad. 

Home, Part 1: All the roses have all burst into bloom during 4-day absence. Hail storm due so cut dozens of stems and quickly photograph them for a new garden book planned for 2015. Wind blows still life this way and that. Then Cooper, our Cavalier King Charles, sits firmly on all the freshly cut blooms. Shoot ruined.

Neighbour walks past and laughs. So do I. Remember how nice our neighbours are.

Home, Part 2: Write to a reader called Meredy to thank her for saying nice things about my books. She replies with the nicest email you could ever imagine.  ('Nice' has become my favourite new word.) 

Then discover she has 6 kids and a new house reno going on. Clearly a superwoman. She is very, very nice. She is also very funny. [Her website]

Her house is actually called 'Chez Joyeux'. What are the odds? 

She also recommends an intriguing new book on her blog (above), which I order on Amazon.

Home, Part 3: Trying to finalise our Christmas trip, we decide to stopover here en route to our week in Siem Reap. It's Borobodur, the biggest and most famous Buddhist temple in the world, located deep in the jungle of Java

I'm on a lifelong mission to visit all the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, and this is said to be one of the best. 

It's meant to be so beautiful that tears are often shed when you reach the top.

I find a lovely hotel nearby and phone for availability. 
We're in luck, says the manager. There is one of the cheap villas left.

We book it.

 Life is suddenly looking up.

There is gratitude indeed.

PS Of course, you're meant to be grateful for the important things – family, friends, career, health, the picking garden – but this test is just to make you contemplate the small joys each day.

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