Why your Mom was Right when she told you to say "Thank You."
Almost exactly 5 years ago, I moved to London at the age of 20 to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure I would never forget. In the summer after my sophomore year of college, I was hired as a paid (minimum wage, mind you...) intern for the Cartoon Network, working as a programming and presentation assistant for the station's entire Nordic region. A bright-eyed young woman who had barely escaped my teenage years, I'd only left the US one other time when I landed at Heathrow Airport in the summer of 2009 for an extensive six month stay. Despite the fantastical nature of the whole experience - being young, being alive, being in a city most only dream of being able to live in with a pretty awesome gig to boot - I was, for the most part, utterly terrified. I took the job without any real consideration of its (pretty much lack of) salary, and of the fact that I'd be living in one of the most expensive cities in the world on such a tiny paycheck. Many nights concluded with me walking the hour-long walk home to avoid paying train fare and snacking on ginger snaps and oranges for dinner. My "flat" was the size of a small American walk-in closet, and I used to joke that if I gained even one pound, I wouldn't be able to fit into it anymore. Of course this was an exaggeration: the bite-sized pied-a-tierre was just large enough for the one suitcase I brought with me for my six months of travel, along with a mini-sink, fridge and a shoe collection that took up most of the floor at the end of my bed.
In spite of sleeping with my feet up against my mini fridge on most nights, and the plight of walking past the gorgeous store windows of Harrods without a thought of actually going in to purchase anything, I can't help but remember those six months I spent in London as one of the happiest times I'd had in my life up until that point. When I say the happiest, I'm talking significantly happier than any experience I'd had up until then. And why? All because the "lack" showed me a big something or two about appreciating what I do have.
When living on a little, the small miracles of life are under a magnifying glass. It's those days when there's no real reason why we should be able to afford everything we need, yet somehow everything works out, that we notice those little miracles a whole lot more than we would if they were just to be expected. Living life in such a way, while actively practicing gratitude (a friend or two of mine on that trip suggested I download the "gratitude app" on my phone where I can make lists of what I'm grateful for that day, followed by an inspirational quote upon completion) was the perfect recipe for happiness. I began to not only take note of every little thing that happened in my favor each day, but to actively attract more of that good stuff because I was choosing to recognize it. Before I knew it, even the smallest victory, like catching the train right on time or having a new friend invite me over for dinner, felt as significant a miracle as the red sea parting. On top of that, intentionally looking up and expressing my appreciation for each of these things as they occurred was like pressing a button that caused more and more little miracles to happen, each one bigger than the next.
Abundance started growing a lot more after than trip. I got back home to where I lived in Boston and, thank goodness, had much more to live on than I did when I was living out of a suitcase. I actually had to learn to adjust to all the "stuff" because I wasn't used to having it anymore. Unlike before, I really noticed all of it, and I still notice all of it...even today.
When I look for things to be grateful for, I am telling the universe "Hey, you there, I want to be happy. Here is my rope, I'm going to throw it to you. Can you pull me up there?"
The gratitude is my rope.
And today, I am grateful for that chapter in my life, half a decade ago, that taught me so much about the real value of saying those two magic words: