Gratitude Graffiti: Part 1

How do you develop a gratitude practice and what is a "gratitude stop"? Today we are launching a blog series featuring the innovative Gratitude Graffiti Project.

By Lucila McElroy

Looking at my life from the outside, most would agree that it has been a “success”.  I have had a successful life coaching career, reaching and exceeding most goals I set out for myself. 

I have a healthy family, a husband, three well adjusted daughters and a beautiful home in an idyllic tree lined street. From the inside, however, I have struggled with feelings of anxiety, depression and “not good enough”.   What a double life for a life coach and optimist like me.

For as long as I can remember I have been on the search for happiness.  What I hadn’t realized is that I had unconsciously “bought into” one of the most prevalent beliefs of our society today - the belief that  Happiness comes from something outside of ourselves and it will come (for real and everlasting) when we finally reach whatever we deem as “perfect” in our minds.  The “perfect” job, the “perfect” husband or family, the “perfect” Zen, even.  I achieved my “perfect” world over and over again, and within minutes, hours or days of achieving my goals I became desperate and disappointed, judging my achievements and suffering through my search for happiness, ready to reach for the next level of “perfect”.

This belief came with a huge consequence: I gave up all control over my happiness.  I was so busy worrying about controlling, blaming others for my problems and wanting so badly to reach my goals to feel “good enough”, that I could not see what I already knew deep down. 

My “a-ha “moments felt freeing as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  The chase was over.  I had it all backwards.  My happiness was not something I had to wait for but something I had to train in, from within. 

But here was my big dilemma.  How do I train from within to feel happy?  How do I develop inner peace? (Which I knew was the way to feel happy and positively transform my world).  How would I nurture my heart?

It started with a shift in belief that I CAN train my mind (like we do the muscles in our body) to feel happy.  I needed proof and I got it.  What I have since discovered is a set of practices that if contemplated, studied and used can single pointedly and methodically nurture us from within and transform our world. 

One of these is the practice of gratitude, so simple that it’s often overlooked as a skill to develop, a choice in lens from which to see the world moment by moment.

And this is why I, along with now the many volunteers, decided to bring the practice to your community through The Gratitude Graffiti Project, a 21 to 40 day practice of purposeful appreciation for our life through interactive art (which we call “gratitude stops”).  Realizing that we need support and the reminder to practice gratitude our project is now part of towns all over North America helping people develop this life changing skill.

Within one year, our “gratitude stops”, inviting people to express their gratitude on windows, ribbons or paper,  are in over 130 locations including schools (where we run a more in depth program), retail stores, a hospice, restaurants, coffee shops and libraries in towns in Canada and the USA. 

I believe the reason why our project is spreading like wildfire is because we no longer want to feel dissatisfied, busy and overwhelmed.  We are all longing to feel happy but we haven’t learned “how” to methodically and systematically increase our feelings of inner peace.

As many of the participants have now reported, our project provides the “how” and it’s so very simple.

Learn more about The Gratitude Graffiti Project and tune in for our series of weekly posts.

Lucila McElroy is the Co-Founder of The Gratitude Graffiti Project and the Dean of the Perfect Mom Reform School.  She is a mother of three and a life coach with over 15 years experience coaching people to be happy. Her work has been featured in Real Simple Magazine, The Vancouver Sun, Global TV, and Go Vancouver!

 

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