The Grateful Life

***Occasionally my publisher, Viva Editions, asks me to review books by their other authors. This was one that I said yes to because I have always been fascinated about the science behind happiness, contentment, and gratitude – perhaps because I don’t feel like they come to me naturally.

I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. ***


I find gratitude a tough thing to practice on a daily basis.

It can be incredibly challenging to feel grateful for the toddler in full on hysterical meltdown mode because you had the audacity to ask her to wear boots in -20 weather. It can be tough to feel grateful for a sink full of dishes, an overflowing inbox, and a deep bone-tiredness that you can’t seem to shake no matter how much you sleep.

But gratitude is, and I think always will be, something I consciously try to work on. It is a worthy goal – if a challenging one, and The Grateful Life confirmed that for me.

It’s a small book and a simple one, which is kind of fitting given that the practice of gratitude is, too. The chapters are divided into sections which speak about the role gratitude plays in our lives – how it has the potential to improve health, increase workplace productivity, and grow feelings of happiness and contentment, too.

Using anecdotes from the lives real people, each chapter sets out to illustrate how a grateful attitude can truly change your life. Sometimes little vignettes like this seem corny, but it was an interesting approach in this context because many of the stories began with misfortune. And this fact was really important to me to underscore the strange nature of this practice.

Gratitude doesn’t just magically appear when we have everything we want. Grateful people, the people that say Thank you more often and have heart attacks less, the people for whom gratitude is a panacea for all ills, they very rarely have it all. And even more strangely, their gratitude practice often begins during their darkest moments.

This is important. It’s especially important to me right now, because of the frustration I am experiencing with Olive’s latest stage, where literally every piece of clothing she has to put on is grounds for a battle royale and I find myself yelling and frustrated (and I am not a yeller. I have never been a yeller. But I am doing a lot of yelling. And also alot of feeling guilty for yelling.)

I know that as a parent you must pick your battles. So I have given up trying to make her wear clothes in the house – who cares, right? But guys, it’s -15 to -20 here lately. There’s like 4 inches of snow on the ground. Not wearing a coat (or socks or a shirt or a sweater or or or or) is simply not negotiable. So the battle rages on. I am trying to not make it a power struggle, but I’m not sure how is can’t be a power struggle when I am like “Olive do you want the red shirt or grey shirt?” and she says “Nuffing” and then bolts for the door.

It seems like such a small issue, and in the grand scheme of things it IS, but then you have days where you are faced with a toddler who takes advantage of you being stuck on the toilet in a filthy restaurant bathroom and removes her shoes and her socks and then refuses to put them back on again. So then you are both on the floor of the filthy restaurant bathroom and I imagine that if I could play that incident back it would look very similar to calf-roping but with more high-pitched crying and less rope (which, come to think of it, really would have come in handy. Something to add to the diaper bag perhaps?)

Eventually I carried her from the restaurant to the car barefoot and screaming, as the other diners looked on aghast at this shocking display of bad parenting. And then she cried because her feet were cold.

SO. Incidents like that that repeat themselves over and over tend to tint the whole day in an unpleasant way, and that is sometimes tough to be grateful for, you know?

But this book reminds me that stewing in the completely irrational existence of this Sisyphean task isn’t going to make it better. The rage radiating off me isn’t going to make Olive tolerate clothing any more than she already does.

So, at the end of the day, I have started trying to sit down and do what I advise her to do so many times a day. I take a deep breath. And then when I feel a little less like a crazy insane person, and feel all of these tiny crazy power struggles melt away one by one, I write a small list of things I am grateful for.

And that list immediately creates a shift in me, and even occasionally makes me laugh because sometimes it reads like this:

1. I am grateful that it is me dealing with this crazy behaviour, and not someone with less time or patience or love for Olive.

2. I am grateful that we are able to afford warm boots, even if she does refuse to wear them.

3. I am grateful that my daughter is so strong, swift, agile, and tenacious. I mean Beckham ain’t got nothing on this kid. It was truly astounding how, in that bathroom, after I managed to jam one boot on while she was momentarily distracted by the hand dryer, she managed to kick it off with such force that it actually ricocheted off the wall and hit me in the side of the head. Well played, Olive. So power. Much athlete.

4. I am grateful for Adam, who almost never makes me talk in a Minnie Mouse voice and never fails to dress himself in seasonally appropriate clothing all by himself every single day. And looks good doing it,too.

5. I am very, very grateful for bedtime. Hers and mine.

It’s important to do this. And it’s important to know that there is real, quantifiable real science behind it. Gratitude journals aren’t just for flaky hippies anymore, they are for people who want to feel fulfilled, content, healthy and happy.

And don’t we all want that?

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  • Reply Cynthia Barnes November 14, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    well said Madeleine

  • Reply aneasyworld November 15, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    This article on Joyful Toddlers literally changed my life in regards to getting a toddler dressed, which let’s face it can be like some form of slow torture. I still use some of the strategies with B now he’s three and is procrastinator extrordinaire. Weirdly choosing a character to get dressed as, even if he’s still wearing regular clothes, makes it an acceptable process. Today he chose to dress as the Queen of England, wearing penguin print leggings, a dinosaur sweater and purple snow boots. Which is almost certainly what the Queen would be wearing today. Anyway, the link:

    • Reply sweetmadeleine November 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      Such funny timing because today I stopped announcing it and just started doing it – while talking about what fun we were going to have in the snow etc. and it went WAY smoother! I will definitely try this. I will look like a crazy person, but at least a little less ragey than I do now 😉

      On Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM, Sweet Madeleine wrote:


  • Reply Kirstie MacGowan November 15, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    I am really bad at being grateful until something bad happens and then all of a sudden I am super grateful for everything. I really like the idea of writing down small daily gratitudes…. small things are important on a daily basis. For example, I am grateful that my car stereo is loud enough to cover the screams of my toddler when she doesn’t get her own way and I am driving. 😉

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