But between the busyness of life and the constant messages we’re bombarded with that we don’t have enough, aren’t enough, etc., it’s easy for gratitude to fall off the radar screen.
With that in mind, I want to share an experiment that has helped me be more consistently aware of gratitude.
A couple months ago I decided to try an experiment with a button a friend had given me that says “Thank you.” I would wear it every day, just to see what effect it would have. My plan was to just wear it for a couple weeks, but the result has been so positive, I’m still wearing it.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR
Here’s a nutshell of what I have found so far.
The button reminds me to focus on gratitude
Especially in the beginning, wearing the gratitude button was a constant reminder for the question, “What can I be grateful for?” I would see it when I looked down. I would see it in the bathroom mirror when I was washing my hands. Often, just knowing it’s there has acted as a reminder.
Other people remind me to focus on gratitude
When I’m out and about, other people provide a great reminder. Sometimes they ask me about the button. More often they don’t, but I notice a little eye-bobble as they glance down at the button. And even if neither of those happens, just the fact that I’m half-expecting them to ask about it brings my attention there.
Occasionally when I tell them about the impact of gratitude, someone asks, “So what are you grateful for?” That’s always a great way to bring it out of the abstract and into the present moment.
I started to notice more things to be grateful for
The longer I wore the button, the more I started to notice things to be grateful for. It’s like taking your gratitude muscles to the gym. The more they work out, the stronger they are, and the more naturally they come into use.
My general awareness of gratitude was greater
It’s not like I’ve this non-stop power surge of gratitude as a result of wearing the button. But I have noticed a greater overall awareness. Gratitude has become a more constant part of what I notice, even in small, subtle ways. The song of my day has more gratitude notes, you might say.
It gives me the opportunity to plant seeds with others
The button hasn’t just had an impact on me. It has also been an opportunity to plant gratitude seeds with other people, creating positive ripples. When someone asks about the button, I give them a short spiel on the experiment and the positive impact of gratitude. One woman even decided that she needed to get a bunch of buttons to give to her friends.
People start to expect my focus on gratitude
One day I was having a particularly bad day and was in a particularly foul mood. I didn’t feel grateful, and I didn’t want to wear my button. But I had to go to the bank, and I knew there was a teller there with whom I had had a long conversation about my experiment. I knew she would be expecting me to be wearing it. I sighed, put on my button, and headed out the door.
Sure enough, when I saw her she smiled and asked, “Where’s your button?” I flashed open my coat and showed her that it was there. We ended up having a positive conversation, and it brought me back to a more positive space.
In a way, that starts to create a “gratitude accountability loop.”
WHAT HAS GOTTEN IN THE WAY
Here are a couple things that I found have reduced the experiment’s effectiveness.
The button started fading into the background
After wearing it for several weeks, the button just started to fade into the background. I don’t notice it as much.
The gratitude started becoming mechanical
After a while, the gratitude started becoming more mechanical, like another item on my to-do list. I had to really stop and consciously bring a feeling of gratitude back to it.
WAYS TO IMPROVE THE GRATITUDE BUTTON EXPERIMENT
Here are some ideas that just burbled up on how to counter those two things.
Get different buttons: From a purely visual perspective, the button started to become background white noise. I grew used to seeing it there, and it stopped catching my eye as something different. It’s possible that getting a variety of buttons – different colors, shapes, sizes – might keep my visual attention more.
Get an “ask me why” button: This is something I toyed with from the beginning. Maybe 1 in 10 people I encounter while out and about ask me about the button. Adding an “ask me why” button might open the door to talking about it even more.
Make a conscious ritual: Rather than hastily grabbing it off the table as I get dressed, or unceremoniously tossing it down when I get ready for bed, I could make putting it on and taking it off a conscious ritual. Each time I put it on or take it off, I could pause, focus on my breathing, and think of five things I’m grateful for.
If I wanted to go even farther, I could make the conscious ritual into a five minute gratitude meditation.
Carry a supply of thank you buttons with me: I could carry a supply with me and if someone asks me about it and responds really positively to the idea, I could give them one. That would both ratchet up the engagement around it and plant seeds with other people.
So can a gratitude button experiment change your life? Yes, I think it can.
If this experiment tickles your fancy at all, I highly recommend it. It’s a super-easy way to increase the gratitude awareness of both you and the people around you.
If you do, let me know how it goes!
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