I doodled 17 things to be grateful for when I was sick and alone in a foreign country. And learned 3 things from doing so.
Tonight, I have a sore throat — to the point where even the simplest act of breathing hurts.
And clogged nose.
And a terrible headache.
In fact, my whole body is in pain. So much so that dragging myself to the bathroom seems just impossible.
I’m in a foreign country, far far away from my home.
I miss my mom’s herbal teas with ginger and honey. And her tight hugs she gives me when I get sick. Too bad I can’t see her until June.
And I’m crying.
This is all I could write last night before deciding it’s enough.
I was not going to let myself drown in my ‘sorrows’.
So I sat down and started thinking about the ways to improve my own mood when no one else was around to cheer me up.
well, welcome to #adulting101.
It was time to consult my holy bible 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute by Richard Wiseman. Because you know, all I could handle was 1 minute of work to boost my mood 📖 . Boy, was I wrong.
So I did that. I skimmed through the pages of “happiness” chapter and got the gist:
I had to write some gratitude journal entries.
I’m no stranger to the concept of recording gratitudes.
But… I had a problem. I was not quite in the mood for writing about the positive stuff when I was dealing with such terrible pain. Moreover, it was hard to find even one!
Well, except for the classic stuff: family, friends, boyfriend.
Then turned my head to the right.
Saw my favorite vanilla scented candle I picked from Ikea with my boyfriend standing on my nightstand.
Reached the lighter.
Lit the candle.
Watched the flame for a few moments.
I then grabbed my notebook and let my right hand create my first doodle: ‘a vanilla scented candle, even though I can’t smell anything’.
My Gratitude List In 17 Doodles From 04/16 To 04/17
As a reminder to my current and future self.
To be completely honest, I was not planning on sharing my doodles on Medium as they were something I made only for myself.
And when you create something only, and only, for yourself, you express vulnerability through whatever it is that you create. Your main focus is not to make them look pretty but to give your most honest feelings life.
That’s why it’s not super easy for me to share this experience as it requires being somewhat emotionally naked.
Yet, I noticed 3 profound effects of doodling and coloring my gratitudes as I went about the process. So much so that I had to document my experience on Medium since it might possibly help someone who feels down today, or tomorrow, or any other day in the future.
And it was impossible to talk about my experience without sharing my own vulnerability through my ‘art’.
So I took the risk.
Here we go.
3 Things I Learned During The Process
Let’s jump right into the lessons I learned during the past 24 hours.
1. I practiced slow living without even realizing.
Even though I’m a huge fan of the slow movement, sometimes I just want to speed up the process and get immediate results. I’m a human being after all. My brain is hardwired for instant gratification, just like everyone else’s.
Last night was such an example. Anything that would take more than a few minutes seemed like a burden to me. Even if it was to improve my own mood.
When I doodled my first item on my gratitude list, the candle, it was around 20:30 last night.
And you know what?
It was 21:45 when I was done with my first page. I worked on my list for a little more than an hour listening to my favorite playlist on Spotify and disconnecting from everything else.
I didn’t plan out anything I’d doodle.
I didn’t set a timer.
I didn’t tell myself “I’ll only doodle for 5 minutes.”
Once I started, I just kept going without even thinking about the time.
I was in the ‘flow’.
I kept doodling more this morning after the breakfast.
This time with the right mindset:
to pay attention to the process and to enjoy it thoroughly.
And it took me another good hour of thinking, doodling, and painting.
I enjoyed every second of it. I didn’t try to speed up.
I slowed down instead.
I paid attention to the lines, to the colors, to the water.
It was an ultimate slow living practice, just when I needed the most.
“Because, life is not a race and I’m here to enjoy.”
2. I was happier, sort of.
I’ve always believed there’s something so satisfying, uplifting and healing about creating a form of art — whether it be a piece of writing, a poem, or a drawing.
But when you create something, anything, only for yourself, you begin to experience greater healing effects.
Not knowing I’d be sharing what I was making took away all my worries.
I stopped thinking with my logical brain and let my feelings pour out of me.
I stopped worrying about whether my piece was good enough to share with the public.
I stopped hanging on to my limiting beliefs like…
“I can’t draw.”
And only after then, the magic happened.
I felt lighter as I drew, colored, doodled.
I felt happier.
At this point, I should clarify something.
I’m not saying gratitude lists in any form will magically remove all your sorrows.
In fact, when I went to bed after an hour of doodling which made me feel indeed happier, I cried a bit more. My Ikea carrot didn’t give me the tight hugs as my mom and my boyfriend would have given. I was tired of listening to the same songs on my favorite Spotify list over and over. And I couldn’t read a page from the Hygge book I mentioned in my gratitude list before I fell asleep.
Life was not rainbows and unicorns.
But my heart was not as heavy as it was an hour ago.
Yes, I cried. But my heart didn’t ache. It was more like a ‘relief cry’ that made me fall asleep faster.
When you doodle your gratitudes and color them afterwards, you create new mental pictures for yourself instead of simply jotting down your gratitudes on paper.
You basically give them life.
And your brain likes that. Because we’re all hardwired for the visual stuff rather than the plain words on paper. And we’re much more likely to remember the visual things we create — which means the more you draw your gratitudes, the more likely you are to recall them in the future. Which in turn will make you an overall happier person.
3. My mind was much calmer.
Whenever I doodle something for myself, my mind goes into the state of ‘flow’. I concentrate only on the paper, the feeling of my pen on the paper, the figures I make and the whole range of colors I create by using only 12 of them.
So to me, the whole process is like a meditation. It makes my mind a calm and peaceful place.
If you want to incorporate (more) meditation into your daily life, why not give this concept a try?
Why not set aside some time each day or each week to draw and color your gratitudes? You don’t need to share them with anyone else unless you want to.
And who knows, maybe you make it your weekly/monthly habit to go through your gratitude drawings you’ve made in the past.
You can always find little things to be thankful for regardless of the situation you’re in.
And you can always draw them regardless of ‘how talented you believe you are’.
Have you drawn your gratitudes before? Would you like to share your piece or your experiences? I’d love to hear!