#30DayThanks, Day 5: Keystone Thankfulness

I’m on Day 5 of my 30 Day Thankfulness project, and already I see changes in my life and perspective. This week I’m out in Providence, Rhode Island, to visit a friend for her graduation at Brown…and this has definitely got me thinking about thankfulness. I find myself thinking about gratitude more often now (especially if I still have to write/send my letter). I set my deadline for writing and mailing for 9 AM the following morning so it aligns with my Daily Success Checklist (I’ll talk about that another time).

I feel more prone to being considerate in general; maybe I’m thanking people too often now. Or it feels that way, because I feel like thanking ALL THE TIME NOW. I finished reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit a couple weeks ago, and as anyone can tell you (like I do with all books I read), I’ll frame the entire world’s actions based on lessons learned from that book for roughly the next three weeks. I’m thinking that writing this daily thanking letter creates what The Power of Habit calls a keystone habit: an initial habit that, when followed, creates a pathway to other habits. 

It’s what happens when you start running every other day and decide to diet or bicycle to work (or when you decide that you’re going to have a cigarette while out drinking with friends). Your brain receives a positive response from doing habitual actions, and linking new actions to those positive responses makes it easier to take on new habits. Starting a new routine with a simple keystone action instead of a complex routine allows the brain to cement the new habit and link new actions together, creating a powerful tool for change.

For me, writing a thank-you letter in the morning puts my brain in a positive state, one where I’m investigating the world around me to find things to appreciate. This means I naturally look around more often and find things to appreciate, and subsequently I thank people when they’re involved in making those moments. I guess this creates a sort of positive habit loop

Or I’m making this all up.

Either way, on Day 5, I’m still glad I’m taking the challenge on. 25 letters to go!

-Josh

#30daythanks is a simple challenge: send a hand-written letter of thankfulness to someone at least once a day for 30 days. If you want to do this and want to mail letters, but are short on resources, contact josh.k.boykin at gmail for assistance.

Post on Twitter/Facebook with #30daythanks to get in on the project and inform others. Also, feel free to email or comment any feedback or suggestions!

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Be Thankful: The 30-Day Thankfulness Challenge

A friend of mine moved into his new condo today, and he wanted some help. I’m not working a 9-5 right now, so I had the time; I originally thought it an 11-2 task, but volunteered for an all-day affair. Allergies and asthma weren’t kind to me today; my friend asked if I wanted to leave multiple times, but I told him I planned on sticking around until the job was done. And I’m glad I did, because there were fireworks just outside of his condo for a local festival this evening.

Fireworks do something to me that I can’t quite understand. I’ve talked about this before, but my first memory involving fireworks is me, sitting on my dad’s shoulders as a young kid, screaming bloody murder because I was convinced I was going to be hit by the giant, cascading green bloom in the sky. Even after that near-traumatic experience, fireworks managed to work their way into my heart. Some of my favorite memories have been gathering with friends or family for fireworks, distracted from cell phones and life just for a few minutes to see pyrotechnics in the sky. So when I left my friend’s place today and saw the fireworks booming a short distance away, I sat on the trunk of my car alone and watched the show in the brisk night air.

(Yes, it’s brisk here in Madison at night in May. I have no idea what’s going on with weather.)

When I drove home, I realized I felt happy. Damn near sick…but good. I felt like I accomplished something, pushed through difficulty and sickness and followed-through to the end. And, to be honest, before I started writing this post (or the post that was supposed to be on my new site before I found out about the hackers), I felt incredibly sore and shaky, convinced I’d pushed the envelope just a bit too far and I’d be sick tomorrow. But I realized that I wasn’t just feeling happy; the feeling putting a smile on my face was thankfulness. And that feeling I had to act on.

I’m thankful that I live in a nice apartment where I feel comfortable and have my own space. I’m thankful that I have friends and family all over the country willing to let me visit and stay with them, and I’m thankful I have the resources to be able to do that recently. I’m thankful that I have successful friends, people who take pride in what they do and do it even when it’s hard or frustrating. I’m thankful that I have family that would do anything for me, even when I don’t deserve it.

Even after saying all these things, I have to admit I’m not great at expressing thankfulness to the people who deserve it. So I’m starting this tomorrow, and I hope you’ll join me:

The 30-Day Thankfulness Challenge

It’s simple: physically write one letter a day to someone you’re thankful to, then mail that letter. The goal is to both write and mail one letter each day; feel free to write/mail more than one in a day, but no counting multiple letters in one day for multiple days.

The goal is twofold: to make thankfulness a daily priority, and to make sure one person finds out they’re appreciated every day for thirty days. I think it’s important to physically write and mail the letters; physical letters are special. (I might have to type up the letters I write and mail them alongside the written ones like a secret decoder key) Yeah, you’ll probably have to ask people for some addresses. Don’t be afraid; they’ll appreciate it in the long-run.

Thirty days, thirty letters. Thirty expressions of thankfulness. And it’s not even November!

I’d love to hear if you’re going to join me on this challenge. Post on Facebook or Twitter with #30daythanks, and maybe we can get some other people in on it, too.

If you’re short on resources and funds, contact me at josh.k.boykin at gmail and I’ll help you out. Let nothing stand in the way of your gratitude.

Thanks for reading.

-Josh