‘Thank you’. Two simple words that we learn from an early age. Parents encourage their children to say it on a regular basis. It’s a phrase people make a point of learning when travelling to a foreign country.
It’s something that most of us say daily probably more than once. But, do we mean it or is it simply a societal expectation for us to utter these two words at regular intervals?
Envy – noun: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
It’s easy to become focused on what we wish we had. Let’s face it, we all do it! There’s always going to be someone with a better house, nicer car, more fulfilling job. For some, noticing these things feeds their drive to do more and achieve more. But for others, myself included, envy can have a negative impact on our mind-set. Spotting the girl with the flawless make up in the supermarket only serves to make me feel drab. Speaking to the friend who adores their job and gets immense satisfaction out of what they do only serves to make me wonder what I’m doing with my life. Seeing celebrities in magazines wearing the latest designer handbags only serves to make me wish I had more money. These sorts of thoughts plague me on a regular basis and recently I decided enough was enough! I decided to focus on what I was grateful for rather than what I wished I had.
Gratitude – noun: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
There have been countless articles published in recent years about the effects of gratitude. One such article by Robert Emmons, a Professor of Psychology, suggests that practicing gratitude, ‘Allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions.’ The fact is, gratitude is a powerful thing. It can allow us to open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us as well as the people in it.
Unfortunately, we are programmed to notice the negative over the positive. And, let’s face it, positive emotions wear off quickly. We can stew over a snarky comment a colleague made at work for days but spend mere minutes appreciating the delicious meal we have prepared or the smile on the face of a loved one. The fact is, our brains like newness. We save and we save to buy that new car we’ve always dreamed of but, before long, we start eyeing up the newer model. Therefore practicing daily gratitude can have an immensely positive effect on our mind-set and how we perceive our lives and ourselves.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who was complaining about her lot in life. She felt she didn’t have as much money as she wanted, her house wasn’t nice enough, she hadn’t found the right man for her. I told her to try to be grateful for what she did have. In response to this suggestion, she scoffed and asked, ‘Like what?’. I replied with a list of several things:
- Your health
- Your children
- Your family
- Your confidence
- Your friends
She paused for a moment and then smiled. This list that I’d fired off at her, without much thought, made her realise that she had a lot to be grateful for.
I have always been a fairly negative person and have been known to be a ‘moaner’. As a result, I have become increasingly interested in anything that can help me combat this and practicing gratitude has become one of them.
A method that I’ve adopted is to start a gratitude journal. Each day I make sure I jot down three things I am grateful for. Even when I’m having a really bad day, I don’t struggle to come up with three things. I type mine into my notes app on my phone but you could do it in a notebook, on a post it or you might just take a few minutes out of your day to think about three things you are grateful for.
Last month, I sadly lost my Stepmom who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The grief I felt for her loss and for my dad who was left behind was unlike anything I have ever felt before. It was all consuming and, at times, almost painful. However, I insisted on thinking of three things I was grateful for. When I did it a couple days after, I came up with the following:
– I am eternally grateful that I got to meet such a kind, gentle and funny woman.
– I am so grateful that my Dad got to have several years of happiness with his soulmate.
– I’m grateful that I have a supportive family that rallied together to be there for my dad and each other.
As awful as the last few weeks have been, focussing on what I was grateful for has helped to get me through.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ― John F. Kennedy
Keeping a gratitude journal may seem simple enough and, to an extent, it is. But, I believe that the positive effect and impact it has is immeasurable. I sleep better after I’ve jotted down what I’m grateful for and I’m finding day to day stresses easier to deal with. Gratitude helps us to see what is there rather than what isn’t and a grateful heart is a magnet for happiness.
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