According to that purveyor of all truth, Metro newspaper, gratitude is indeed the latest answer to fulfilment. They’re all doing it, from Katy Perry to J-Lo, where ‘it’ is keeping a gratitude diary, each day recording things to be grateful for.
Actually I am a big fan of gratitude, and in acknowledging the things you have to be grateful for. I wouldn’t keep a dedicated journal or diary just for that, because I can write it in the journal I already keep. I mean, how many diaries/journals can a girl maintain at one time? I don’t necessarily write about the things I am grateful for every day, I don’t even keep my diary every day, but certainly the act of consciously acknowledging the things I am thankful for has really helped me experience more joy in my life.
In particular, it’s helped me notice and celebrate the little things. For example, I was getting on a bus yesterday, and there was a group of about ten 7-year olds waiting at the bus stop and singing “A Sailor Went To Sea-Sea-Sea’ with all the actions. This continued as they got onto the bus. Arriving home, I walked into my house, took off my coat and suddenly found myself singing it (no actions, I have to admit). For a moment, I experienced a surge of joy, both because I was doing something so silly yet playful, and at the memory of the kids themselves. Now I am not someone who is enthusiastic about children under the age of about 11. They baffle me! And I can think of a time when I would have just growled to myself the whole bus journey. But the practice of consciously recording things that give me happiness, or joy, or that I am thankful for, has expanded my horizons in all sorts of unexpected directions, including the ability to look kindly on small children.
It’s true, there can be downsides. It’s easy to put yourself in a Polyanna-like state of ‘everything is wonderful’. But here’s an interesting thing. Our thoughts tend to drive our emotions, which in turn drive our behaviours, so the more your focus on the positive – for instance things you’re grateful for, the more your thoughts will take a positive turn. It’s basic biology. But if you find yourself making comparisons with others, or bemoaning the fact that you seem to have so little to be grateful for, it won’t work.
When I suggest keeping a record of things you’re grateful for to clients, they sometimes ask about the crap stuff that’s happening in their lives. It could be a break up, illness, the death of someone close, having to care for a child, parent or partner, facing sever financial problems and the like. On the face of it, there’s not much to be grateful for if you’re trying to deal with cancer on your own. Yet I have known people who’ve faced death in the eye, lived to tell the tale, and said it was the best thing that could ever have happened to them because of what they learned as a result. One of the things that kept me sane when I was dealing with my mother’s psychotic lurch into dementia was the memory of the good times we’d had together. I truly was, and am, grateful for those memories, and they were a huge support to me when I was dealing with my mother’s violent side..
I’m also grateful for the fact that I was born in and now live in UK, during a time of peace. I’ve never had to face bombs raining down on my town, as my mother’s generation did, or as people in the world’s war zones do. I have a decent roof over my head, and more than enough money for my needs. As a woman, I can drive, go out alone, and wear pretty much what I want. I can work, and express my opinions with relative freedom. I even have the vote, which I wouldn’t have done if I had been born 100 years earlier. For all those things I am truly grateful. I’m grateful for my friends and for my clients too. When my clients get the results they want – whether it’s teenagers getting A*s in their GCSEs, someone landing their dream job, or someone experiencing true lightness of being after a breakthrough session with me – I am delighted, and very, very grateful that they allowed me to help them. At a more mundane level, I am grateful to be able to sit in a cafe and type out this blog post, which I’ll soon upload and share with anyone who wants to read it.
Finally here’s a comment to make you smile. It’s from said Metro article, quoting Janice Kaplan, author of The Gratitude Diaries.
‘Gratitude seems to be trending in Hollywood.’
If you’d like to talk to me about how you can bring more fulfilment and happiness in to your life, please contact me to arrange a complimentary phone call.