Anna Dwyer lives and breathes the word gratitude. Every day she finds at least five things to be grateful for and writes them down. Some are small, like the whisper of wind that whisks through her front porch. Others are bigger such as seeing her husband, who has been working away for three weeks. Without fail, every day, she’ll write them down.
“I will never spend a day being ungrateful,” says Anna, with a smile.
How the Gratitude Journal began
In 2011, Anna was promoted at work to Sergeant of the Cultural Advisory Unit in the Queensland Police Service. From a small town of only 3000 people, Anna made the move to Brisbane with her two nieces. However, it soon became too much and her life began to implode.
“I struggled with the city, the crowds, even going into shopping centres and not knowing what to do with so much choice,” says Anna.
As she fought to accept her decision to relocate, one of her nieces also began skipping school. This pushed Anna over the edge.
“I was struggling, I was in turmoil with my circumstances,” says Anna. “I remember sitting down one day and thinking what am I going to do to change this situation? I’m going to do a Gratitude Journal.” She set a target for 1000 days straight.
Every day Anna wrote in her journal at least five things she was grateful for. They started small, like the bus running on time. Soon that ten minutes, became twenty and eventually she didn’t have to make a conscious effort anymore.
“What I noticed was that in any situation, you always start to look at what’s good about it,” says Anna.
As her positive energy began flowing and the journal started filling up, something truly remarkable happened. Her journals began to inspire her friends, family and even complete strangers.
“I didn’t have any intention to inspire anyone, my intention was to inspire myself to become more grateful,” Anna says. “I was telling everybody that I can see how it works for me, you should try it!
“As I’ve told people about the benefits of a Gratitude Journal, they’ve then come back to me noticing a difference in their lives. That was an unintentional outcome,” she says modestly.
Anna has now spent more than 1300 days being grateful and hasn’t looked back. She has been promoted twice and as Anna says, she is in “the flow of life again.”
The Oprah impact
The power of gratitude would again show itself in 2015, when Oprah Winfrey visited Brisbane. Wishing to give her friends and family something to be grateful for, Anna paid for eight people to join her for ‘A Night with Oprah’ at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
“I felt that they were going to be able to benefit from some of Oprah’s teachings,” says Anna.
But it wasn’t the first time Anna had met Oprah. Back in 2010, she had a life changing experience.
The first Oprah meeting
“In 2010 I was chosen by the Oprah show to be an Aussie Ultimate Viewer,” Anna says, as a result of sending in a homemade video when Oprah asked viewers to tell her why they were fans of the show. Along with thousands of others from around the world Anna hoped Oprah would see it.
“I had been a big fan of Oprah for 20 years, I’d learnt so much” says Anna.
To help keep her hopes up Anna created a vision board – covering a piece of cardboard with pictures and words reminding her of her goals.
“Anna appears on the Oprah show with her books and Anna goes to the Oprah Show and receives VIP treatment,” laughs Anna as she remembers what she had scrawled on her vision board.
Later that year Oprah announced she was coming to Australia and, “In that moment I knew she would see the video I sent,” says Anna.
In the coming months Oprah’s producers interviewed Anna, but then silence … thinking she had missed her opportunity to meet Oprah. But while Anna was at work, a film crew rolled into her office pretending to shoot a documentary.
They placed an open laptop on her desk and as the screen began to brighten a personal message to Anna began to play.
“Hello Anna. G’day mate. We found you all the way out there in what you call the middle of nowhere,” says Oprah in her all too familiar voice, “You are going to be my special guest at the Sydney Opera house. See you there girl.”
“I was just in shock,” Anna says. “Because I was in the middle of nowhere, I was in Weipa, how did that happen?”
Oprah flew Anna first class to Sydney, put her up in a five-star hotel, gave her front row tickets to the show seated amongst celebrities, and even took the time to meet Anna.
Her homemade video, which included Anna holding Oprah’s books, aired on live television fulfilling another vision. But it was her Gratitude Journal that would soon prove to be the most powerful force, rescuing her from herself and at the same time inspiring countless others.
The second Oprah meeting
Unbeknown to Anna, as she headed to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with her eight friends five years after that first fateful Oprah meeting, she was in for another surprise.
“Oprah had found out from a friend that I had completed 1000 days of Gratitude,” Anna says.
During the show, Oprah stopped part way through her speech and called out:
“I heard there is a lady in the audience that has done a Gratitude Journal for over a thousand days.”
Anna’s hands began to shake and her thoughts became muddled as once again the queen of television called out her name.
“Anna Dwyer please stand up.”
The crowed began to cheer as the spotlight shone down on Anna and she was handed a microphone. Her shaking hands struggled to hold the microphone still, but she managed to gather her thoughts as Oprah began talking to her.
“She got me to stand up and talk about gratitude. I was caught completely off guard, but happily off guard.
“She asked me what had triggered it and I told her how I’d been struggling, so I set myself a goal of thousand days,” says Anna. “For her to interrupt her story to talk to me was amazing.”
Anna’s gospel of gratitude was spread to thousands that night, many who have started their own journals.
The journey continues
Having achieved her original goal of 1000 days Anna plans to continue until she has reached 3650 days or 10 years straight.
Anna says if she only manages to inspire one more person from now, then that’s something she’ll be forever grateful for, while never forgetting the “many opportunities and doors open because of this attitude for gratitude.”
Kurravi Piggott is a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology and hopes to one day be a television reporter.
When he isn’t studying he works as a lifeguard and enjoys going to the beach, swimming and surfing.