365 Gratefuls: A Gratitude Project
What are you grateful for? Author and photographer Hailey Bartholomew talks about the gratitude project behind her inspiring book, 365 Gratefuls.
What are you grateful for? Author and photographer Hailey Bartholomew asked herself this question every day for an entire year to help combat a bout of depression she was experiencing. The exercise not only brought her a clearer sense of purpose and contentment but extended into a shared gratitude project that inspired friends and readers alike. The end result? The book 365 Gratefuls, published earlier this year. To celebrate World Gratitude Day, I interviewed Hailey and was, like I expected, inspired. I hope you are too.In the intro to your book, you talk about the fact that the decision to start your gratitude project arose from months of depression and feeling a lack of purpose. At what point into the project did you feel these emotions start to shift and how do you think this shift came about?
I started seeing a nun for some counseling. I’m not Catholic, but I wanted to try and work out why I was so unhappy with things. I had been feeling ‘blah’ about life for some time—a year or more—just going through the motions rather than really enjoying life or feeling alive. I went to her to try to talk through things. She suggested I needed more time in reflection and gratitude and advised me to take time each day for thinking what I could be grateful for. Initially I did this by writing things in a note book and was really struck by how many things I would have missed if I hadn’t been doing the exercise. I then decided to make a year-long project of it. I noticed a change quickly. It was as though the more I thought about what I was grateful for, the more grateful I felt! Around the three month point, I really started to feel different—like life was good and my head space was more positive than it had ever been.
Besides rediscovering yourself and your relationship with gratitude, what other benefits came about because of this project?
The project dramatically affected my relationships. I suddenly noticed all of the loving things my husband was doing daily. I noticed more how precious and fleeting the time with my children really was. And I also noticed that it affected my relationship with the environment. When you are noticing beautiful details in nature like a leaf or a dear little beetle, it makes you more aware of your impact on the earth. I started to consider how I could tread more lightly in an environmental sense. I found I wanted to be in the garden more as I saw how much it fed my soul. I also noticed that it really was the little delights of life that made things good—like warm Ugg boots on a cold day!
I was particularly moved by Amy’s story included in your book—the account she shared about the way gratitude became her life rope after the death of her daughter. We often jump right to the good times in our life when we think of gratitude, but as her story demonstrates, sometimes it’s during our darkest hours when we truly feel the effects of gratitude. Would you agree?
Yes, I totally agree. I think gratitude is a choice. Meeting Amy and interviewing her for the book made me realize just how much of a choice gratitude is and, by choosing to be grateful, how much it freed her up to enjoy the children she still has. Amy continues to inspire me whenever we meet up. She is not stuck in mourning. She is grabbing life by the horns and feels so very thankful for the time she had with her daughter, Rosie. When life doesn’t happen like I had in mind, I keep coming back to my choice to be grateful and in that decision I find great treasure and release. When I let go of how I want things to be and really see what is good about right now, I find that life flows beautifully!
I’ve been following your photos and your videography for quite some time now, and it’s obvious you are a very talented artist. Do you think your art and creativity help you to be more grateful?
I think there is a direct link between creativity and gratitude. When I look around at Pinterest or blogs, sometimes I can get pretty flat about what I am doing—“I’m not as good as this or that” (comparison is the thief of joy!)—but when I get out in nature and with the people I love and focus on how rich and blessed my own life is, I find it is a creativity hot house! Ideas and thoughts and projects come a mile a minute.
When you opened your project up to be shared with readers, you received an outpouring of submissions—beautiful photos and stories about gratitude. Are there any in the book that stand out as favorites?
There are so many, it’s hard to say! There is one from Janne Nordvang in Norway. She contributed a photo of a bra with a soccer ball in it like a sling shot. Seriously, this one makes me laugh, and I also get a little teary every time I read it. Such a great “moment.”
I also love the one from Shaw Lamb who talks of how grateful she is that she didn’t have money for the birth defects test when pregnant with her son. It is a big part of why she got to spend 18 years with her gorgeous boy.
There are so many sweet, funny and thoughtful moments in the book.<
How has this project changed you in your role of motherhood?
This project has helped highlight for me all the wonderful times I have with my kids and keeps my focus on this rather than getting bogged down with what makes parenting hard. It really helps keep things in perspective—not just on a day to day basis, but also on what I value and put time into. Looking over my project and over the years of focusing on gratitude helps me see that these moments with my kids are the ones that bring the greatest joy. As we make decisions about the jobs we take and the lifestyle we want, I think gratitude has helped me choose things that allow me to experience as much of their childhood as I can. I also think gratitude is counterculture to the “fast, faster” and “need more of everything” lifestyle which has been a great thing to learn myself and pass on to my kids.
Do you have any unique ways you are teaching your children to be grateful, especially after writing this book?
The main way I teach my children is through how I behave and the choices I make. My girls are constantly watching how I interact with life (they are 13 and 10 years old). I hope they see that I modeled a way of life that’s fulfilling. I want to help teach this to other kids too. My husband and I wrote a kids’ book about a little girl who wanted what everyone else had. She magically gets it but ends up losing her happiness because she was carrying too much. We’ve talked about this short film and book we made with our kids for years, so when they are not in a grateful space we sometimes joke with them that they’re like Ruby Who? (the character in the story). The funny thing is, when I don’t live in a grateful space, they often remind me too!
Advice to anyone out there wanting to start a gratitude project?
Whatever you love to do, base the project around that. Whether it’s taking photos or making lists or painting, choose something that comes natural to you so it won’t be hard to keep it up over an extended time. Don’t give up! I seriously got more out of my project the longer I did it! And your project with others will help you find connections and others’ inspiration.
If you’d like a little gratitude gift—just a few minutes of happiness—check out the opening video on Hailey’s site. There’s sun flare and babies and dogs and gardens and beach waves and dancing and wrinkly newborn skin… and twirling. Whew. That’s a lot of gratitude.
Happy World Gratitude Day! If you feel inclined, tell us here at BabyZone what you are feeling grateful for today.
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