For anyone who knows me well, they will know I’m a big fan of gratitude. I find great comfort in savouring the moments of joy, the snippets of contentment and the tenderness of connection.
We are designed to see and react to the negative things around us. It’s a survival instinct, we’re constantly scanning our environment, observing and preparing for any potential risks or threats. Having this awareness keeps us alive and in many ways is a superpower. However, this means we naturally have a negativity bias, finding it easier to be negative about situations than positive.
It’s very easy to fall into this default setting when there is uncertainty in the air, but I could really think of nothing better to practice than gratitude in these threatening and restless moments.
Gratitude sets our focus to the good things. It cultivates an unwavering feeling of hopefulness, appreciation and joy. It helps us to notice and celebrate the moments, people, places, health and opportunities that we might regularly allow to pass us by.
‘Gratitude helps us catalogue, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through the vanishing hourglass of experience.’ Dalai Lama 2016
Some may be sceptical of gratitude, seeing it as unrealistic or ‘hippy dippy’. Yet in a study conducted by Professor Robert Emmons, he discovered that ‘grateful people do not seem to ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; they simply choose to appreciate what is positive as well.’ (Abrams 2016)
There is always a balance, you can’t live in this world without experiencing pain. Yet it’s important that like the sunflower we turn and face the sun. That we learn to savour the moments of each new day and marvel in how fortunate we are to be alive.
- Before you go to bed think of three things that happened in your day which you are grateful for. With each thought invite the feeling of the moment into your body, let it fill your heart, let it unleash a smile on your face; allow yourself to bathe in the appreciation of each precious moment. I have done this practice off and on for many years, it’s a wonderful strategy to share with your partner, children, friends and family. I find it eases my mind before I go to sleep, and I’m sure it improves the quality of my dreams!
- Find a gratitude rock, this could be a pebble from the beach, your garden, a riverbed etc. every night before you go to sleep go back over your day and remember all the good things that happened, then think of the ‘best thing’. With this in your mind, holding your stone in your palm, say ‘thank you’. I like this practice because it makes you search through your day remembering many good things in order to find the best moment. I also love that there’s a physical object that somehow holds or represents these moments of gratitude. (Bryne 1988)
- Use your senses! It’s easy to get caught up in the chatter of your mind, so I often slow down and try and savour a moment; the rich taste of black coffee, the soaring buzzard above my head, the smell of wild garlic the heat of my shower in the morning. Pause and savour these sensory enlivening moments.
- Make a gratitude diary. Write a list of the things you’re thankful for, when you wake up in the morning, over your lunch break or after dinner. You’ll find that once you start it’s quite difficult to stop!
The Magic by Rhonda Bryne (author of The Secret) – A book full of practical activities that make your experience of being alive just that little more magic!
The Book of Joy – a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abram – I devoured this book, so many thoughtful insights on fear, suffering, acceptance, compassion and gratitude!
14,000 things to be happy about – the title says it all (good toilet book)