Being grateful is not easy. In fact, the term grateful itself makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of the awkwardness of having to recite all the good in your life, in front of your class. The term is uncomfortable, often associated with the deeply religious or deeply free spirited. I am neither of these things and finding a middle ground, reclaiming the experience of gratefulness and feeling it’s benefits did not come easily to me.

These experiences are definitely my own and I am not suggesting that being religious or free spirited is good or bad. It is, however, difficult to figure out how it applies to you if you do not identify with a category your action is mostly associated with. So, where does this leave you? How can you be grateful if, like me, you’re usually a pretty grumpy, gloomy and negative person?

How to start being grateful

Following on from some of the research I did into gratitude (thanks Amit!), it has been suggested that individuals can improve their attitude and encourage their feelings of gratitude.

“Increasing focus on the link between mind and body can encourage feelings of gratitude”

– Bono and McCullough (2006)

There are lots of ways to share gratitude and experience the benefits. Even if you’re not at the stage of wanting to share all that you love with the world around you, you can still experience the benefits.

How to be grateful

Gratitude and Thinking

Thinking of grateful events has a bigger impact than when you write them down. It’s suspected that this is because when we write them down we are forcing ourselves to be grateful in a moment that may not be conducive to the act. Thinking can be done at any time and mindful thinking can help you experience really positive feedback as the thought occurs rather than stocking it up for later. Eamons & McCullough (2003).

What should I be grateful for?

People often think that they need to be grateful for actions of another person but it’s been found by Wood, Joseph and Linley that those that find gratitude easiest are more likely to involved a wider range of people and events. Such as:

  • Being grateful for being able to see a sunrise
  • Being grateful that you met your partner
  • Being grateful for the love of your partner
  • Being grateful that your church leader makes the weekly sermons relevant and engaging

Gratitude and writing

Writing is an incredibly rewarding way of expressing gratitude. Although it has not been found as effective as just thought, writing is still a useful tool. Unlike thoughts, written word is available for those days that you require a boost in your mood or any ailment

What other ways can you express gratitude? What works for you?

Bono, G. and McCullough, M., (2006) Positive responses to benefit and harm: bringing forgiveness and gratitude into cognitive psychotherapy, Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E., (2003), An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 372-389.

I have been busy doing all kinds of art and journalling. You can stay up to date with my creative ventures through Instagram, as that is updated far more regularly than the blog. 

I must admit, speaking with Pages and taking his advice to just get on with it has truly been a big motivation for me these last few weeks. Thankfully, whenever I attempt to be creative and reflective, I am left feeling excited, positive and incredibly optimistic. My mindset is good right now!

What has everyone else been up to these last few weeks? Was the holiday season satisfactory for you?

Christmas is drawing to a close and my attention is fast changing to focus on the new year and resolutions. As 2013 draws to a close, I am reflecting upon my goals and what I want my 2014 path to look like. I wrote about my feelings of uncertainty and direction over here and I have spent a lot of my December taking time to think about me. Although my plans are not yet set in stone, I know that I am inspired to be more constructively creative and active in my life. As soon as I plan it out more, I will be sharing.

In the meantime, I’ve been developing an awesome friendship with Pages Matam, who spoke here earlier this month. We’ve been talking about creativity, purpose and direction, all the things I’ve been struggling with lately. He kindly offered to share some of his tips on how to start being creative and focused.


When did you become interested in poetry and teaching?

I first was interested in poetry in middle school. I fell in love with teaching may be about two years ago working for Split This Rock building the LTAB-DMV Youth teaching and empowerment program. Seeing the way these kids were impacted by not just my work with them, but how they found their voices and used them to grow not just as writers/artist but people it is so beautiful. Those kids inspire me to do and be better.

When did you realise that your work was making a difference?

After the first time a young boy came up to me after I did a poem about a friend of mine
committing suicide, saying that he wants to do and be better with his life and being a good
kid to his mother. The kid must’ve been no older than 10 years old. A few moments after,
the boy’s mother came up to me and confessed on how she was ready to give up on life
and call everything quits, and how her poem inspired her to keep pushing and going forward.
At that time, i was may be 16/17. But something clicked in me, on how art can be a  source
of healing and inspiration, and that words hold such power and can make a huge difference.

What does your son think of your poetry and work?

He is only 6 years old, he thinks it’s fun…he is not really into poetry though, he just likes being able to stay out late and be at venues with lights and he gets to eat all the food and hear adults say crazy things.

Tell me a little bit about why art heals and words have power.

Art heals because there is something about Art that allows to manifest healing. It allows you to use your imagination to express whatever darkness you may be going thru, but also it gives what a lot of people tend to lack in that time of darkness – power and control: whether it is over their own bodies, their minds, their feelings, the outcome of a situation. With your imagination you can create any outcome that you so desire. And that in itself is powerful and can provide such a great step in healing. With that said, words are extremely powerful. There is energy in the things that we say and how we act upon them. knowing how to navigate the world with that energy, how they can empower or hurt people, how they can give or take away, is extremely important.

6 Tips for Increased Creativity and Staying on a Creative Path

  • Just write. No matter what it is. Whether a single word or a thousand paragraphs, write. Allow the words to spring forth on their own, don’t force them.
  • Read. Watch and listen to other work too, but also read. I could not be where I am without having read/watched/seen such a diverse array of work from writers/artists from all around the world and from all walks of life.
  • Find a trusted person/mentor and loved ones that you can share not only your work but yourself with. It’s important to have people you trust in your life. 
  • Be authentic and genuine. Your work will reflect it.
  • Be open minded and receptive of change, especially in competitive slam. Bad scores don’t mean your work is bad, but it doesn’t mean that you’re better than anyone else either. They’re just a reflection of other people’s opinion.
  • Remember always why you do what you do. The purpose in your work and keeping a clear sigh of it. Be fierce and unrelenting in that notion. Don’t let anyone take that away from you, no one.

What do you do to stay creative, inspired and confident?

Pages Matam is a multidimensional national touring artist, residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. He is a Write Bloody author, playwright, and award winning slam poet (2time DC Grand Slam Champion, 2013 Southern Fried Champion) with passions in the field of youth, activism, and education. Along with his greatest accomplishment, being a father, he is also a proud gummy bear elitist, bowtie enthusiast, professional hugger and anime fanatic. As he takes stage – as a poet, educator, or host – be prepared to be taken on an experience of cultural, socially conscious, and personal discovery unapologetic in its silly, yet visceral and beautifully honest in its storytelling.

All of a sudden, Ontario has become very, very cold and incredibly snowy.

I eagerly await the first snow fall of winter. I love the first dusting, but it is the first blanket that does it for me. There’s something about the quietness and serenity that accompanies that first covering that makes it magical and almost fantastical.

The Canadian is often amused by my ability to just know that it snowed. For me, it’s like the pressure changes, the sound of the world outside adjusts and the magic just seeps in. Admittedly, the snow quickly becomes a burden, an irritation and a chore, but it’s that first moment that makes me excited.

When it snowed a few weeks ago, I woke up at 3 a.m. and watched it fall. I tried taking some photos but failed in the low lighting. Rather than figuring out how to get a good photograph, I decided to enjoy the moment. It was definitely worth the early wake up.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been really struggling to express myself in a way that works for me. I feel that I am at a turning point. Having never been particularly good at setting goals and having a mission, I feel lost and without direction.

There have been lots of very positive experiences over the last month.

  • My Etsy shop and card sales have been amazing. The support of my friends, family and online connections has been amazing, the amount of custom cards and interest has been exciting and validating.
  • I have spent the last few weeks building networks and connecting with some brilliant people in my (newish) community. Developing these links has been rewarding and energising. It was shocking to realise how reserved and reclusive I’d become, pushing myself to get out of my shell and challenge myself has been one of the best things about the last few weeks.
  • Travelling. I love travelling, and I’ve done a lot of that recently. Enjoying the delights of everywhere from Kingston to Leeds: finding a renewed pleasure in driving, singing at the top of my lungs and generally being busy.
  • Reflecting.
  • Word of the Day. I have been playing word of the day and it has surprised me how much the experience has entertained me.

Saying all this, I’m going to be taking the next few weeks to hibernate from blogging. It’ll be quiet around here while I spend time with my sister, my family and The Canadian. I am lucky to have so much love and inspiration in my life. I find that sometimes I become so involved with the online world that I forget to look outside of it, find inspiration, connect and live life outside of the computer screen.

I am wishing you all the best of holidays, Christmas and wintry season. December is my favourite month and I hope that you manage to feel some of the December magic!

See you in 2014!

This post contains reference to topics that are of a sensitive nature.


To the man on the bus I overheard in conversation, tell a woman, presumably a friend…

The words starting simply, slowly built with intensity to an unheard rhythm, leaving a harrowing echo and adrenaline coursing through my body. This is the talent of Pages Matam and the power of his poetry.

Pinata hit the internet through Upworthy a few weeks ago, making Pages a star in the way only a viral video can. The poem is a dark commentary on societal views and beliefs about rape and abuse. It left me dumbfounded, it left me intrigued.

I sought out Pages’ work; my research leading me to discover that not only is Pages a talented creator but he is also dedicated to his craft and the improvement of society. The 2010 and 2012 Grand Slam Champion, co-host of the GraffitiDC Slam series and winner of the Write Bloody New Author Award for his newly released book: “God Circus”, he is not without major success.

A few weeks ago, I sat down to have a chat with man who had left me speechless. A far cry from the 11 year old with little English, Pages has developed a strong relationship with words and is diligent with their presentation. Within minutes of our chat, he explains the energy and power that words have, ending by sharing that he is wary that once words are out there’s no taking them back. Having spent the last few years developing workshops for all generations to pursue their passion of creative writing, he now offers sessions on the healing power that words and creativity can create.

Art gives you access to your unknown self, forcing you to face your truth

To Pages, words, poetry and being creative are the best way to actively listen to yourself. With an outlook like that, it’s hard not to feel goosebumps when you consider that his personal history has not been the easiest. It is through writing poetry and using it to reflect, that Pages has been able to combine the power of therapy and self-awareness to overcome addictions and abuse. However, it’s only in recent years that he has started pouring parts of himself into his published work. For years, he ignored reflective pieces in favour of commenting on the world and neglecting the issues impacting his personal life the most. A seemingly innocent conversation with his son made him turn inwards, leading to his first personal history piece, Cancerous Growth. Since then, he has started discussing broader truths, moving away from love poetry, which, he assures me, were really very bad and beginning to build his own balance between personal history and commentary on the society he is most passionate about. He has joined Split This Rock and developed a passion to fight social injustice and promote positive culture change through creativity.

Bringing the truth to power through words…

It is clear that Pages has a great passion for change, creativity and politics and he seems to have found a balance between them all. I asked why creativity had a place in the realm of social awareness and the campaign for social change and he went quiet. Slowly, he told me a story of what it is like to be an immigrant with a memory and understanding of one culture but the socialisation and habituation of another, one that does not always recognise who you are. His story weaves through and around topics of ethnicity, gender, and belonging, acknowledging but not forgiving the problems society has created around them. Stereotypes, he explains, are difficult, because you cannot challenge them without feeding them and encouraging their growth. He continues on, explaining that expressing yourself creatively, providing a platform that anyone, regardless of background can relate to, is one of the many ways safe discussions about social injustice can occur.

Just write, I started writing love poems; they were dreadful things…you can be a doctor or a banker but you need to be creative

At this point, my 30 minute conversation has fast morphed into 40, 45, and, eventually, 60 minutes. It is easy to become wrapped up in conversation with Pages, he is intelligent and relaxed. He tells me about his dreams to build a school that focuses on the importance of creativity. Why, I wonder, is creativity so important? “…because it forces you to face your truth”. He tells me stories of his youth and the dedication of his mother to ensure that he had creativity in his life. It doesn’t matter what field you end up in, you could be a doctor or a banker but creativity is going to help. You need to know how to deal with emotion, you need to know it’s ok to feel and that feeling a particular emotion is neither bad nor good, it just is. It’s what you do with it that counts and this, Pages says, is where creativity plays a role.

It’s ok to be angry and guilty, even if they’re useless emotions

I cannot leave without asking him about the Pinata success. He is surprised by it, he didn’t really think that so many people would be interested in it. He tells me that he has received messages from men and women all over the globe, Pakistan, England, Canada, US, the middle east… Most, he says, are messages of support, promotion or relation. What makes Pinata so special? At first he’s unsure, but then he quotes something his friend told him “you’re giving a voice to the voiceless”, he elaborates further, not taking credit for representing other peoples’ experiences but instead highlighting the importance of speaking about pain and using it to heal. Your story, he says, is your story. But you never know how it will resonate with other people.

Your story is your story but you don’t know how it will resonate with other people

We speak a little longer and eventually call it a day. I leave our conversation feeling inspired and refreshed. Some how, I feel like I have just left a particularly good therapy session where previously uncovered truths were revealed. Pages has a funny way with words and is definitely someone to keep watching.

If you’re interested in following Pages Matam’s journey, reading his work or learning more about him check out the links below. Over the next two weeks, I’ll have a question and answer session from Pages and 6 step guide on how to get creative. It’s going to be fabulous!

Pages Matam is a multidimensional national touring artist, residing in the D.C. metropolitan area, but originally from Cameroon, Africa. He is a Write Bloody author, playwright, and award winning slam poet (2time DC Grand Slam Champion, 2013 Southern Fried Champion) with passions in the field of youth, activism, and education. Along with his greatest accomplishment, being a father, he is also a proud gummy bear elitist, bowtie enthusiast, professional hugger and anime fanatic. As he takes stage – as a poet, educator, or host – be prepared to be taken on an experience of cultural, socially conscious, and personal discovery unapologetic in its silly, yet visceral and beautifully honest in its storytelling.