Melanie's Story - Grateful for experiences

"I think those who feel more grateful have always lost something."

Illustration of the sun, cloud and birds

Aarushi: Hey, Melanie, thanks for joining. And we are here. So excited to learn about you and your story. Could you please start by giving us a look at how your life was before you were intentional about gratitude?

Melanie: Sure, thanks for having me. I got a dog in 2015, he was supposed to be an assistance dog. And after six months, he failed. And I found life pretty hard. I have a disability. And I had previous dogs that worked quite well and could go everywhere with me and help me while I was out and about and at home.

And then I got Upton. And he failed after six months. And I didn't know whether to give him back to the organization that gave me him or whether I should just keep him because I didn't know when the next one would come by. And I found that I was stressing about it, and about what to do.

I found writing my thoughts out before I went to bed really helpful. And then I could sleep and not have to worry about what was on my mind a bit. So I started journaling using my phone. And then I found the Gratitude app and it gave me a place to write regularly, prompts and colors are awesome as well.

I'm usually quite positive, a person that loves life and loves doing all sorts of things. But I hate the cold. And it can get quite cold in Perth where I live. And I find that just restricts me from doing things as well, I can't do as much work.

Yeah, Just my range of motion decreases in winter, because I can't do as much for myself. And I don't sleep as well in winter because I go to bed freezing cold and I can't fall asleep.

And then I have blankets on when I wake up in the morning and I'm boiling hot and I can't sleep then either. And so, I kind of get grumpy in winter, and I was taking it out on some of my support workers.

And one of them said, "You know, just be grateful that I'm here. I'm here to help you. Don't take it out on me." And so she really encouraged me to be grateful for the little things, just her turning up was good.

And the fact that I'm alive and the fact that I can put a heater on and warm up if I need to. And, there are lots of other people who don't have that privilege as well. So I think she really was the main instigator of me feeling grateful.

Aarushi: So you said that you used to just write out your thoughts in your journal? How was that different from writing about things that you are grateful for?

Melanie: I guess I used to just write about the problems that I had. Whereas now, if it's a rainy day, and it's horrible weather, I can be grateful that I was home, instead of writing how awful it was, right?

If it was raining, and I didn't get wet, then I'd write how lucky I was not to get wet. Or, just a little spin on things just a little bit. They all add up to big things at the end of the day.

Aarushi: What do you think is the importance of gratitude in the world, for everyone to feel in their lives?

Melanie: I think a lot of people probably do. It's probably the more privileged people who don't, the people in power, those sorts of people who make decisions about everyone else.

Probably the poor people feel gratitude for anything that comes their way because they don't have much to start with. They're grateful for anything that they get. You got lots of money, you've got lots of cars, you don't appreciate them.

You can do whatever you like, you're not gonna be appreciative of everything that you have. Whereas someone who has to work hard to earn the money will appreciate it more.

Aarushi: So when you have more things, you're less appreciative and less grateful?

Melanie: Yeah. Like if I had a dog that worked perfectly, I won't appreciate him as much. I wouldn't acknowledge it because it's right there in front of me. Sometimes you just take it for granted.

Like the sun? The sun is always there, except on a rainy day. I think that if you have something all the time, it's harder to appreciate because it's always there. You know, it's not missing to miss it.

Like, people who have accidents and can't walk again, and never appreciated that they could walk or take themselves to get in a car and drive somewhere. That ability to realize how good you had it?

Aarushi: Yeah, it makes me realize that it's hard to go through these times, to then come to a point when you feel grateful. So I think gratitude helps you not to, I mean, you can't really dictate all of your life, but you can feel grateful even without losing something because you become conscious about it.

Melanie: Yes, but I think those who feel more grateful have always lost something. The more grateful you feel, the more you might have lost and the more trauma you felt.

Aarushi: So in that sense, even the pain that you felt, is now helping you feel something good.

Melanie: Yeah. More and more grateful. I mean, same with happiness, you can't always feel happy, unless you've felt sadness. You have the ups and the downs. And the lower the downs, the higher you can go.

Aarushi: We try to escape sadness. And there's this movie that I really love, 'Inside Out' and the lesson from that movie is that just to escape sadness, you keep you don't experience other emotions fully.

You put yourself away from possible harm and possible losses, possible sadness. And in that journey, you don't even feel happiness truly. So because you didn't feel sadness as you should have, you don't even feel happy fully.

Melanie: And, you know, I used to feel bad, feeling angry or whatever. But, I have to be true to my emotions. If I am angry, I'm allowed to be angry. If someone really annoyed me, I'm allowed to show my anger. As long as I don't punch anybody or anything.

But, I don't shy away from emotions now. If someone's made me angry, I have every right to be angry. If I'm sad, I'll tell people I'm sad. If I'm having a good mood, I'll tell people I'm happy. If I'm angry, I'll tell people I'm angry.

You can't always put on a happy face. You can't hide your emotions. You're allowed to experience. That's what gratitude is to me. You're allowed to experience every emotion, there is no harm in doing that.

As long as you don't experience bad emotions for too long at a time. That would be bad for your mental health. Other people will notice anyway. Even when you're trying very, very hard not to.

Aarushi: Yeah, when you're trying really hard not to show, there comes a breaking point when it's all going to spill over.

Melanie: And you don't want to get to that point because it spills over into something that you know, if it's anger, or bitterness, or jealousy or something, you're going to do something that you might regret.

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