CHICAGO — Two years ago, anxiety was keeping me up at night, threatening to spiral out of control. Meanwhile, my husband with his easy confidence — never seeing a raincloud without a silver lining, always constructing the best possible scenario when confronted with a set of hazy details — slept like a baby. I decided I wanted that kind of peace in my life.
So, I decided to brainwash myself.
I pulled out all the stops: I meditated daily (a crazy hard practice). I programmed my iPhone to send me automated texts throughout the day reminding me to not worry. I rewrote my personal history, casting it in a fortunate light. I started holding a pencil with my teeth because I read somewhere it mimics the act of smiling and lifts your mood (this really works, by the way).
Then Janice Kaplan’s book “The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life” came out, promising that by just being thankful one could crowd out negative thoughts.
I started keeping — and it pains me to say this because it’s soooo “Oprah Winfrey Show” and completely out of character — a gratitude journal. The idea was that just jotting down a few very quick, context-free thoughts every day to engage in the physical act of being thankful would accumulate over time and keep me focused on the positive.
The brainwashing worked.
The silver bullet was the act of writing. Looking back at two years of these notes, I can feel the relief and gratitude wash over me. For instance, an entry from November 2015: “I’m so, so thankful for not having to get another root canal.”
I like this one, too, from a cold December 2016 day when my fuel gauge told me I had zero miles left on my tank: “I’m so thankful I made it to the gas station.”
Other days, I was just thrilled that my son had a good day at school or that my puppy hadn’t chewed up my shoes or that I’d found a dollar bill on my walk — all good stuff that’s easy to…