Making The World Happier One Gratitude Journal At A Time: An Interview With Teddy Droseros
I came across Teddy’s gratitude journal on Instagram and was immediately drawn to the cover art and the idea behind the book. The overlay of colors and large shapes with smaller intricate patterns seemed simple and detailed at the same time. The concept of a gratitude journal also intrigued me because I wanted to form a habit of writing things I was grateful. Teddy and I met one evening in The Village (NYC) and chatted about his gratitude journal, his transition to being more intentional about his health, and his quest to add gratitude practices to school curriculums.
What made you make the gratitude journal?
I don’t know it really was just me wanting to share my experience. Changing the way I felt about health and happiness. Cause I made some pretty drastic changes to the way I live my life, and I’m just much happier than I’ve ever been. And it’s real happiness. It’s happiness in the present moment. Yeah I just wanted to share that. People were asking me to make them artwork, and I figured I’d put the two ideas together and make a gratitude journal.
What do you think was the anchor for your changes?
Have you heard of Institute for Integrative Nutrition?
Nah I haven’t.
It’s a pretty cool program. You get certified to be a holistic health coach. It’s a yearlong program, and it changed my perspective on what happiness means and what being healthy means. A lot of people think they’re being healthy but unfortunately they’re being misled. The food industry tricks people into thinking one thing, but yeah that’s a whole other story. So yeah I started to change the way I eat and that changed the way I felt and my mind started thinking differently. This was about 4 years ago. The main thing was I pretty much stopped drinking alcohol for a while—for like a year. And it wasn't an issue or anything but you know going out every weekend and drinking and partying—I was in my early twenties—with that, you spend two or three days really getting back to normal and reality. Then you just do it again; it's like an endless cycle. I was tired every day going to work, and I just thought I can do something better than this. Life's too short to be tired all the time.
I know it's hard to put into words because it's more of a feeling, but if you could as best as you can, what was your initial understanding of happiness versus your understanding now?
Something that I'm more in touch with now is the present moment. Being aware of what's going on right now—really just the little things. Not to say I was an unhappy person. I was very content and I was born with a lot of love and support in my life. I guess the thing that was making me unhappy is that I felt like I could be doing more with my time. In terms of, I was blessed with a lot of love, and I felt like it was my responsibility to give back. And when I started taking care of myself, it put me in a position to do things and gave me more energy to share it with people. And that's what makes me happier now. I guess I feel more in line with my purpose.
Are you from New York?
Yeah, I grew up in Brooklyn and I live in Astoria now.
When did you start meditating?
About 4 years ago. It was a pretty drastic change—pretty drastic in terms of the time that it took me to make certain changes. And then from there, it just kind of progressed slowly. There was an initial major change and then the rest flowed.
So you started meditating after the program?
During. It's a yearlong program. So throughout that year was when I probably made the most change.
Yeah, I highly recommend checking it out. It just changes your perspective on what it means to be healthy.
When you started making the journal, what was the initial feeling that you had and has that feeling changed at all?
If anything it's stronger. It just felt right in my heart. Like you said it's a feeling; you can't really explain it. But yeah I feel and I felt at the time that whatever comes from this book is going to bring in certain things to my life that just open up doors and opportunities and people. It just feels right.
Modern science is even showing how expressing gratitude changes our brain chemistry to be more prone to happiness. Positive thinking actually reshapes our neural pathways making it easier to produce the 'happy' hormones.
I don't know what it is. Like, I've seen journals before. But I saw it and just read a little snippet of your message and I was like, “for some reason I feel this”.
Thank you I appreciate that.
Just energy. I was like “woah!”
That's something that people say. I feel it. It took like a year to put it together and yeah I put a lot of love into it. There are so many profound things that you could write encyclopedias about, and I wanted to put it into one paragraph and make it flow and make it sound right and make it make sense. Yeah, so it was hard. It was probably the hardest paragraph I ever wrote.
What idea did you feel like you were trying to package into that paragraph?
Just a total mind transformation that I went through. How do you put that into words, first of all, and then, how do you put it into a paragraph? It was tough. My girlfriend is probably happy that I got it printed because I asked her everyday "what do you think about this? What do you think about..." Every single day. But yeah I'm grateful for that experience, and I'm excited for more. I have another idea I'm working on. It's going be a journal, but this one is about gratitude. The next one is going to be about love. It's really the same thing, but it's going to be about the most important love, which is being in love with the present moment. So that's another one paragraph that I have to think of. I hope to have that out this year at some point. Maybe this summer or the fall.
Are you still working on new art that you're planning on incorporating?
Oh yeah! There's going to be new art for sure. I don't know if you've had a chance to check out the website.
I did, but I don't know if I came across it.
Yeah, I have a little art section, and I have my love pieces.
Yeah, I did see those.
So I'm going to do something like that. That's going to be the cover. I have to figure out the right color pattern and all that.
Do you have a plan for how you want to distribute it?
Get as many people seeing it as possible.
I guess I'm kind of in the hustle phase of the whole thing. Everyday after work, I'm walking into stores and just being like “hey do you want to sell this”. Emailing people everyday. Emailing locations in California and Colorado and yeah, I learned a lot with that. You have to be persistent. That's one thing. And then one thing I'm really excited about is getting it into education. So I actually have my first school signed on for September where every kid is going to get a copy of the journal.
Yeah, I'm really excited about that.
Xavier, I went there for high school. So we started a pilot program early in the year where a group of seniors got a copy of the journal and every morning they would write down what they were grateful for.
That's so fire!
Yeah, that's where a lot of my energy over the next six months is going to be. Getting schools to come on for September and making sure I have enough books.
Haha that's a good problem.
Yeah that's a good problem to have. And yeah, the initial feedback after reading that little paragraph is definitely one of the best experiences so far with the whole project—seeing how the kids are interacting with gratitude.
Do you have an example that you've noticed or someone that's reached out to you to express how the journal has affected them?
Yeah, I pop by some of the locations when I'm in the area to see how many books are left. A few times, the employees of the stores told me every time they started their shift they’d go and read the journal.
They read the about section?
Yeah, so that's been really cool. Another thing I've been doing is leaving the journal at cafes and yoga studios around the city with a little sign just inviting people to write down what they're grateful for. And that's been really cool. A bunch of books have filled up, and I have them at home. If I ever have an off day or whatever, I just sit and read through it. And some of the stuff people write in it is really cool.
So you drop it off and then go back and pick it up?
No, I just leave it there for however long it takes to fill up. And then if the store wants to keep it or do something with it, I'll give it to them. But yeah, it's nice to have them at home. Maybe I’ll do a collage one day or something with what people write.
Do you have something that you saw written down that you really connected with or something funny?
Yeah, there's some crazy things written in there. Also it depends on the neighborhood and type of store. You go to Van Leeuwen ice cream—It's an ice cream shop. There’s a couple around the city. Teenagers go there sometimes, so they write some random things. I'm grateful for pot or Xanax or other random things I can't think about right now. But some of the other things are really beautiful. I can't think about it off the top of my head, but I put a little page on the website displaying some of the entries. So you can check it out there if you want.
I assume you're using the book as well?
I see it so much.
That also makes a lot of sense. That's why I haven't been on top of the Empire State Building.
Yeah, exactly. I've been there once because one of my friends that was visiting wanted to go.
I've tried using it. It's just for some reason I don't know. I just write in other books. That's kind of weird I guess, but I just look at it so much, and I always have one on me.
That makes sense because it's sort of created a life of it's own and in some sense it is you.
Yeah it kind of is. It's like I'm writing on myself.
I guess I created it for other people really. Like my intentions were to connect with other people, not with myself. Maybe that's why I don't use it.
Makes sense. Is there anyone really close to you, maybe your girlfriend or your siblings that you've gotten to use the book?
Yeah, my brother. He called me up one day. You know, we grew up in kind of ahh…a lot of love, but my dad grew up in a very stoic environment, so we show our love in certain ways. But my brother called me up one day and was just like your book is good.
To hear that from him means he must really like the book. So I guess he was using it and read through it. So I'll definitely always remember that.
That's love man. I've been thinking about things I'm grateful for, but it's mostly been a mental list. I tried to make writing it down a habit, but I was trying to make too many things a habit at that same time. But now I feel like I'm settled, so I'm excited to use it.
I'll let you know how it works out.
Yeah let me know how it goes for real. Leave it beside your bed or somewhere that you'll see it everyday.
That's a good point.
Really, the book is just meant to remind people of the good in life, whether you write in it or not, or whatever you write in it. That's why I left it blank, so you can go ahead and write whatever you want. But the idea is that it reminds you.
That was one thing that I was thinking about because I realized you left it blank. Were you at any point considering including art or headings or any of that?
Nah. At one point I was considering not having it lined. Just like blank blank. But I figured it should have lines.
Yeah, it's really about the user. It's not about my art. It's about people developing a gratitude practice. That's what the book is for.
Makes sense. So you're meditating. I know you go to Zen Compass events. Are there any other things within the mindfulness world that you're a part of?
I do a little bit of yoga every day. I try to go to yoga classes in Astoria. I meditate at Kadampa Meditation Center. There's a bunch of branches around the city. I like the teacher in Williamsburg. And there's a teacher on the East village I like. Super cool vibes. They're both actually really different vibes, but I like them both. If I'm in a certain mood I go to one of their classes that night. But yeah, not really I guess.
What I think is awesome is that it feels like it's booming right now.
The mindfulness world?
Yeah it is. All these studios coming. There are so many options.
As we parted ways Teddy shared, “I just started practicing this 4 years ago, and it’s made such a big impact on me. Imagine if we started with kids in school." Check here for more on Teddy’s gratitude journal and his work with Grateful People’s.