Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Joyful Things: The New Test Everyone's Trying

Have you noticed how lots of people are doing these Gratitude Challenges? (Also known as the Seven Days of Positive tests.) Apparently they're like the 5:2 Diet for your mind. Every day you make a conscious effort to stop whining, ranting or being hyper-critical in order to retrain your brain to think pleasant, positive, meaningful and joyful thoughts instead. Even shooting an Instagram pic of flowers will calm the mind. 

You start with seven days—hence the name. Although some people stretch it to 30 days. Which is impressive.

Apparently it changes your outlook on life. For the better.

It's fascinating. 

Here's The Huffington Post's take on it here

And here's author Maggie Alderson's example, here. 
She's on Day 48. That's serious gratitude. I would have lost the list on Day Three.

Seeing how much it's changed people's attitudes fascinated me. I had to try. 
So this was my past week. My Seven Days of Good Things. And believe me I had to search for the joy cos it's been a shonky week. (Oh sorry, the attitude still needs a tweak!) 

The verdict? It really does retrain your brain and improve your attitude.

Monday morning, Melbourne Airport: Heading to Sydney for work. Qantas has kindly done a 6-page feature on my new New York book. My seat copy has kiddie scribbles all over page 2 and 3 of the article. It appears to be a picture of a penis. Take magazine as souvenir anyway, then steal a fresh copy from Business Class on way out. 

On the upside, new Qantas uniforms are gorgeous. Compliment a flight attendant but she scowls and says they're unbearably hot in summer. Think she needs to do a Gratitude Challenge.

Sydney: Have grumpy exchange with Budget people about dirty hire car, then remember Gratitude Challenge and smile thinly. Budget woman backs off nervously. The M1 Motorway into town is lined with bougainvillea: red, orange, hot pink. It's spectacular. 

Sydney is balmy and sunny and the yachts on the harbour are waving hello; it's gobsmackingly beautiful.

Have meeting at Watson's Bay Hotel. Shake head repeatedly at glorious Sydney view. 

Here's the vista from my Loft Suite. 
This gratitude thing is going well.

Sydney, Part 2: Finish business meeting and head to No Chintz for quick visit. 
Chatty salesgirl is delightful. Bolts are beautiful. Bliss.

Laugh when I hear the salesgirl say to someone on the phone (someone from the sister store?):
"Bring me some cool stuff! NO MORE STRIPES!"

Stop by Ici et La for more fabrics. Owner is incredibly nice. When I hear the sound of a sewing machine he invites me into the secret studio. Where I discover this: Quite possibly the most gorgeous seamstress ever.

Next day: Rise at 5AM to tackle drive to Canberra: four hours of $#(&%$%$ motorway madness. Both directions. Surely people don't do the M5 commute to Sydney EVERY SINGLE DAY???? 

Gratitude has flown out the window somewhere between the tunnel and Bowral.

Canberra: National Library is amazing. Architecture is amazing. Bookshop is amazing. Librarians are gratitude-less. (That said, they DO have a difficult job.) One admonishes me for using a pen, and hands me a pencil for taking notes; another says I have to sign a waiver to take photos of papers with iPhone.

I keep apologising, profusely.

Then, a third confiscates my handbag as it's 5mm too big to take into Reading Room. Says everything has to go into plastic bags. Which are 5mm bigger than my handbag.

Small sighs. Then pencil lead breaks.

Canberra, Part 2. Still at National Library. Told off for shuffling papers too loudly. 

Canberra, Part 3. Still at National Library. Archive boxes are all messed up and papers out of order. Forgotten all gratitude. On the upside have discovered wonderful things. Just look at these old images.

Melbourne: Finally fly back to Melbourne, followed by 3-hour drive home. Monash Freeway is a mess. Make decision about business venture that's long overdue, having sought sage legal advice. Feel sad, very sad. 

Home, Part 1: All the roses have all burst into bloom during 4-day absence. Hail storm due so cut dozens of stems and quickly photograph them for a new garden book planned for 2015. Wind blows still life this way and that. Then Cooper, our Cavalier King Charles, sits firmly on all the freshly cut blooms. Shoot ruined.

Neighbour walks past and laughs. So do I. Remember how nice our neighbours are.

Home, Part 2: Write to a reader called Meredy to thank her for saying nice things about my books. She replies with the nicest email you could ever imagine.  ('Nice' has become my favourite new word.) 

Then discover she has 6 kids and a new house reno going on. Clearly a superwoman. She is very, very nice. She is also very funny. [Her website]

Her house is actually called 'Chez Joyeux'. What are the odds? 

She also recommends an intriguing new book on her blog (above), which I order on Amazon.

Home, Part 3: Trying to finalise our Christmas trip, we decide to stopover here en route to our week in Siem Reap. It's Borobodur, the biggest and most famous Buddhist temple in the world, located deep in the jungle of Java

I'm on a lifelong mission to visit all the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, and this is said to be one of the best. 

It's meant to be so beautiful that tears are often shed when you reach the top.

I find a lovely hotel nearby and phone for availability. 
We're in luck, says the manager. There is one of the cheap villas left.

We book it.

 Life is suddenly looking up.

There is gratitude indeed.

PS Of course, you're meant to be grateful for the important things – family, friends, career, health, the picking garden – but this test is just to make you contemplate the small joys each day.


  1. This post made me chuckle--I totally sympathize with the muttered profanities. I'm currently doing one of those gratitude challenges myself--I'm on day 4. Hoping I can hang in there for the full 30 days!

  2. 30 DAYS! You are an angel indeed Kathy. I don't think I could last a week. But it's strangely calming, isn't it? Hope you have a lovely month of happiness!

  3. I chuckled too! At least you had a pencil to break the lead of....I just started the 30 day challenge on Instagram, and at day 4 I'm hunting. I have the gratitude, it just doesn't always translate to a photo.

    1. Oh, I didn't realise there was an Instagram Gratitude Challenge? That's a great idea! But I'd have trouble too. And it's difficult taking photos on an iPhone: always too dark or too blurry. So different to using a camera when you can adjust the aperture. Hope your 30 days are full of beauty and joy Jennifer!

  4. I'm always grateful to get your lovely posts with such interesting 'themes' and gorgeous photos. They brighten my day! I loved this one about my hometown Sydney.
    I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time in Cambodia and Indonesia - both favourite places of mine (together with Paris, of course). In fact, I'n going to Yogjakarta again next week. You may be interested in some tips for your 'designer' Yogja go to Amanjiwo for a drink or a meal - the dining terrace is sublime. In Siem Reap, go to the FCC hotel for a drink or a meal's fabulous. I enjoy cycling around some of the temples (they're spread over a vast area) and always donate blood at the Children's Hospital. You'll love the Khmer fabrics too :) Enjoy!

    1. PS Just writing another heartfelt thank you Vicki. Always touched when readers offer travel tips. It's important to share info, I think.

      Also, if you're reading this and know of any great fabric shops in Siem Reap, do let me know. Warmest wishes.

    2. Thank you Vicki, it's really kind of you to write. And thank you for the Yogjakarta tips. I've heard it's a fascinating city. And yes, we're going to have lunch at Amanjiwo. I was DESPERATE to stay there – it was considered the most beautiful hotel in the world many years ago – but we can't afford $950 - $1200/night. So we opted for an old colonial plantation nearby, which is on a hill overlooking Borobodur and has private pool villas but for one-quarter the price. Loved hearing how you enjoy cycling too. We're doing lots of bike riding through the jungle to get fit, and of course 4am walks up Borobodur for the sunrise. The FCC sound wonderful – thanks for tip! I love that it's the old Foreign Correspondent's Club. And yes, can't wait to see the fabrics! Also the amazing gardens. Good on you for donating blood. Wow. We may have to do that too now. Thank you again for the tips Vicki; so pleased to hear of your adventures.

  5. Thank you, Janelle - I'm in awe of your wonderful blog and books so really appreciate your thank you. I'll be staying at Amanjiwo for the 3rd time - yes, a huge splurge but it truly is the closest place to heaven on earth in my opinion. (I'm a total hotel junky!) I'm so pleased you're going to have lunch love the look of Plantaran though, and have 'stored' that away for future reference. I know there are some good fabric and design employment 'projects' you can go to in Siem Reap (one in particular) and it will be easy for you to find out when you're there - and the local market in the town centre is good too. I hope you'll be writing about your trip!

    1. How fortunate that you've done Amanjiwo three times! What a treat! Have you seen the Mesa Losari Coffee Plantation too? Herbert Ympa wrote about it. And the 7th century royal hot baths at Candi Umbul? It's an original Buddhist dynasty hot spring water in the middle of the green rice fields. Your local drive will be able to find it. And of course the other temples... So much to do in the middle of the jungle... Who knew there was so much to do in Yog? I shall keep an ear out for fabric places! Part of the fun of travel is weaving through the old quarters of cities and discovering places, don't you think? I sense you're like that too. I research the pants of a place before I go, but then, when I arrive, also like to go with the flow. Otherwise you're losing the point of travel. I'm actually going to help at an orphanage / children's trust for a day, and also to source business opportunities (something to do with fabrics!) We looked at Milan manufacturers but I really like the idea of giving the business to people who need it.

      Wishing you a wonderful trip Vicki!

    2. Wishing you a great trip too - yes, I sense we're similar travellers and it's worth doing research but then such an adventure when you're there. Thanks for the extra tips - I'll definitely follow up. I love Herbert Ympa's hotel books, btw. Enjoy...... I so look forward to reading your future blogs (including what you discover in Yogya and Siem Reap!)

  6. I'm just grateful for you & the splendiferous Library of Design!
    M xx
    PS Those folk at the National Library need to loosen up a smidge, life's too short to be so deadly serious with their customers.

    1. Thanks Mills! Yes, lots more rules and regulations at Nat Library since I last went to Canberra! Quite intimidating now.

      But bookshop is fab – really well curated with lots of arts, design and fashion titles. (See? Gratitude Thingy is working...)

      PS You may have seen that I wrote a little comment about something I discovered about Joan Lindsay that was rather shocking but decided to delete it. Some things are best left as secrets, I think... Writing a bio is a tricky thing. You really do need to respect that person's life, while still showing them as interesting, three-dimensional humans with wonderful foibles, faults and of course talents.

    2. Nope didn't see a thing & yep you are right, you walk a very fine line when writing someone's Bio. The old Subjectivity vs Objectivity would always be hovering over the keyboard. Many a Resume writer has struggled with the same dilemma!
      M xx


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