When was the last time you were thankful? Just think back for a second. Maybe it was only earlier today. Or maybe it’s been a while… maybe it’s hard to actually remember.
And where do you feel it when it’s there? How does your body hold it? What happens inside you when gratitude turns up?
Maybe there’s a kind of glow or a warmth or a lifting of sorts.
However you experience it, this very feeling is thought to be directly linked to happiness and wellbeing. Thought to buoy our spirits, help stave off depression, and even strengthen our sense of meaning and purpose in life. It’s considered so potent that positive psychology puts it at the heart of its theories, and has created exercises to increase gratitude (and all its knock-on effects).
So how can you awaken more of this stuff in your own life?
It’s pretty simple really. And it doesn’t need you to wait for any big, momentous occasions to happen. In fact, all it asks you to do is simply notice…
Notice the richness particular people bring into your life.
Notice the meaning that relationships add to your days.
Notice the everyday privileges you get to enjoy.
Notice the serendipity that life itself spins for you.
All you have to do is not take your life for granted…
(Which can actually be a challenge sometimes, in the overwhelming busy-ness of our daily lives and the myriad mundanities we have to attend to. And it can be even harder if you’re in the midst of pain or loss).
Yet, even in the middle of the mundane, it seems, treasures await your discovery. If you can only look.
For instance, a friend of mine had a knack for this stuff. Even when her bills arrived in the mailbox, instead of feeling annoyed or worried about money, she’d remember that these bills actually signified great privilege: her good fortune to have electricity or clean water or gas in her home (compared to many millions around the world who don’t). So she was grateful. Still poor, yes. But grateful, too.
So it’s sort of about noticing what is.
Without highlighting only the downsides.
Without expectation or entitlement.
(Which is starting to sound a lot like mindfulness).
There are countless ways to do this, and to welcome its benefits into your life. Positive psychology recommends starting a gratitude journal or even writing a letter of gratitude to someone who really made a difference in your life (and maybe even bringing it to them and reading it in person).
But it can be even simpler than that.
You can just keep an eye out for those little moments of zest and simply note your gratitude to yourself as it unfolds.
And you can even share these moments online. Here’s a kind of community gratitude journal, where people are listing the simple pleasures they’re grateful for. And, of course, you’re welcome to share them here, on this blog, too.
For me, right now, I’m feeling incredibly grateful for your company on the journey of wherever this blog leads us:
- the chance to bounce some ideas around with you
- to read all your thoughts and comments and tweets
- to learn from you
- and, together, to find our way towards healing and growth, and hopefully to unlock our own ‘therapist within’…
So Thank You, for all that you’ve shared with me here this year.
Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.