“Boing!” Even louder the second time, I think.
“Boing!” A short pause after the third time, and then three more in quick succession.
This is my “take your medicine” alarm, and there’s no ignoring the bossy phone’s insistent message. My spouse has dubbed this alarm “obnoxious.” It is pretty irritating. Still, I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to rely on this device rather than on my memory.
I’m fortunate that my memory usually fails me in smaller ways. But sometimes it fails me in bigger ways—when I forget to acknowledge and celebrate the blessings in my life. I want to strengthen my gratitude muscle, especially since researchers in the field of Positive Psychology have shown a strong correlation between feelings of gratitude and happiness.
At our last Rabbis Without Borders meeting in April, which was devoted to this topic, my colleagues and I received gratitude journals as parting gifts. I tried to keep up with the daily entries, but soon found the addition of a writing assignment to be a source of stress in a workday schedule already filled with written words. As a result, I found myself developing writer’s block, an ailment I’d previously considered to be fictional. My case was task-specific: I stared blankly at the pages of the journal, feeling constrained rather than freed by its writing prompts. I abandoned the journal and instead relied solely upon my bossy phone to remind me to be grateful.
About a year ago, I set an alarm in my phone to ring three times daily, to ensure that I would stop what I was doing and take a moment to be grateful. I chose not the electronic piano riff of my carpool alarm nor the rhythmic Timba drums of my wake-up alarm, but the soothing strains of the harp to be my gratitude alarm.
The harp music serves its Pavlovian purpose as effectively as the rude “Boing!” In the morning it triggers the recitation of a blessing for my body’s proper functioning, and most evenings it inspires the meditation and slow breathing that ushers calm closure to my workday. Often, I preempt the mid-afternoon alarm, lacing up my sneakers for a short walk with Jenna before the harp calls me. I am already happy to get my blood pumping and grateful for canine companionship.
When I hear the gratitude alarm my head rarely fills with words. Usually my mind is emptied while my heart fills with joy.