Crimes Against Alicia

Can you have empathy for your instigators?

Thank you so much for signing up for The Little Things, the email list! I hope you’ve been enjoying your sample of The Little Things (a gratitude journal) so far.

If you haven’t even opened the PDF, no worries! I’m totally not psychic (nor do I own a Magic Eight Ball), so I have no idea who has and who hasn’t started their daily gratitude practice yet.

But if you want to learn a little more about creating a daily practice of gratitude, need some tips to help you reach your happiness goals, or just need a few more prompts, I’m here to help. 

This week, we’re going to talk about ways to help you make your gratitude practice more successful (including ways to remember to practice gratitude). My Top 5 Tips to Crush at Gratitude include:

1. Set a Gratitude Alarm

One of the simplest ways to remember to practice gratitude is to set a reminder or alarm for yourself on your phone. Alarm goes off, drop what you’re doing (or wake up), and open up your gratitude journal (or the notes app on your phone if that’s where you do the ‘tude). 

2. Habit Stack Gratitude

If you’re struggling to follow through with your gratitude practice, you may simply want to piggyback gratitude onto a habit you’re already crushing. 

According to Atomic Habits author James Clear, you need to make a habit urgent, easy, and attractive if you want to follow through with it. Most of us don’t have to muster up tons of energy to brush our teeth or go to the bathroom in the morning. We just do it. 

One way to just do gratitude? Piggyback it onto another habit (like brushing your teeth, eating burritos, wine-o-clock, or showering). You’ll start associating gratitude with your established habit and it’ll become second nature.  

3. Link Happiness Benefits

Gratitude is a lot like mediation or working out. It feels sort of good at the moment (and sometimes it can even suck a little in the moment), and it feels really good after you’re finished. But its compound benefits are what really really feel good. 

Gratitude takes only three minutes, and the happiness benefits are immeasurable totally measurable. 

In a 2016 study, Berkeley researchers analyzed the mental health of 293 participants seeking psychotherapy services. Participants were offered one of three activities to improve mental health (psychotherapy, psychotherapy + writing activities, and psychotherapy + gratitude). Their findings?

“Individuals in the gratitude group reported better mental health than the others 4 weeks after the writing activities, and this difference in mental health became even larger 12 weeks after the writing activities.”

Remind yourself of the benefits of gratitude. Type these reasons into your reminder or alarm description and remind yourself of why you’re practicing gratitude. 

4. Do It When the Sh*t Hits the Fan

Sometimes I only do my gratitude practice when things are crummy. Would it be better if I could stick with it every day? Sure, but sometimes I just can’t. Life gets in the way, and I am a woman who is easily eased into the false sense of security of Netflix, B-list celebrity documentaries, wine, and hot goss. 

Sometimes my Gratitude Alarm goes off when I’m 45-minutes-and-10-Instagram-posts deep in the latest updates on the mystery that is Hilaria (or is it Hillary?!) Baldwin and my immediate response is, “Gratitude? Ain’t nobody got time for that.” 

If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. If nothing else, practice gratitude when your world is a dumpster fire. 

5. Stop Gratitude-Shaming 

If you forget to practice gratitude, don’t berate yourself. When things go south, don’t say to yourself, My life sucks and it’s all because I can never remember to practice gratitude.

Instead, practice self-compassion.

Studies show that people who practice self-compassion (instead of using self-confidence or self-soothing to feel better) are more likely to meet their goals in the long-term. 

One easy way to practice self-compassion? Just name a few of the emotions you’re feeling. Use ‘I feel’ statements to create space between your body and the emotions (remember that you aren’t your emotions; emotions are simply clouds drifting over the sky of your mind). 

I feel like a failure. I’m feeling disappointment. I feel stuck. 

Or however you feel. The important part is acknowledging your feelings. You can’t clean up messes you refuse to acknowledge. 

Sunday, Feb 14th Prompt:

It seems that the general consensus (between my friends and family) is that everyone in the entire world lost their damn minds last week. I’ve heard many reports of the peeps-of-the-world acting even crazier than usual. 

Is it the weather? COVID/lockdown exhaustion? The seemingly unending fight to #FreeBrittney? The world may never know.

When gross stuff happens, I write it down on a list I call Crimes Against Alicia

When I add items like, “My client paid me a day later than I expected,” or, “an 80-year-old man started screaming at me in the grocery store and flipped me off,” or, “the construction workers in my building made fun of me for wearing a mask in the common areas,” I can let go of some of the sting surrounding these situations. 

Especially when I call them Crimes Against Alicia. Because although these things feel like fight-or-flight/life-or-death situations at the time, they’re obviously not. (In the words of Oprah: if it’s not going to bother you in six months, don’t let it keep you up at night.)

So often we make excuses as to why we should feel bad about something (getting paid even a day late can cause financial chaos for a freelancer, how dare a stranger think he can speak to me like that, or I’m saving lives by wearing my mask!). But then we forget to let go of that negative feeling.

Holding on to resentment for situations can actually be worse for our health and mental health than the situations themselves. 

  1. Write down the crimes against you from the last few days. 

  2. Name a few feelings associated with these situations (I felt belittled and devalued. I also felt kind of scared.)

  3. Sometimes just writing down your ‘crimes’ can help you let them go. In my case, I realized that two out of three of my ‘instigators’ were probably having a worse week than me, and I simply decided not to be the recipient of their negative mojo. And the third crime wasn’t really a crime at all. My client was just really busy. 

Can you find empathy for any of your ‘instigators’? (Having empathy doesn’t mean letting someone off the hook or devaluing your own feelings — it’s simply putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.)