Practicing Gratitude During Difficult Times
There is so much to worry about currently that it seems quite difficult to feel appreciation, and quite frankly why should you? When your favourite hobby is off limits, you cannot spend time with your friends and the holiday you were desperate for did not happen expressing gratitude is challenging. You should have your grievances and allow yourself anger, frustration, disappointment, and everything else that you feel right now. However, when the feelings become overwhelming or effect you negatively learning how to switch them might benefit you. Most studies show a link between gratitude and a sense of overall wellbeing. The researchers behind an article published in Psychiatry Journal define gratitude as “the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself and represents a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation”.
My children keep a gratitude journal. Every evening after they climb into bed, they pull out a notebook and write three things they feel grateful for. As typical children they go through phases of writing the same three things each day; Mummy, Daddy and each other. So, I encourage them to focus on their day. As adults we might need to delve deep or rekindle appreciation for aspects of life, we take for granted. A gratitude journal allows flexibility, when you have time for introspection or have a day where your thoughts and feelings seem deeper than usual, you can bring this into your journal entry. On other days “watching TV” is enough.
As you become accustomed to exploring your feelings of gratitude it becomes easier to write more specifically. For example, when you express what aspect of watching TV you value, a pattern will emerge. This pattern will help you to understand yourself at a deeper level and give you the ability to interweave more of what you appreciate into your life.
By using your senses mindfully throughout your day, rather than just running through the motions it is easier to feel thankful. When you take the rubbish outside walk by the flowers noticing the depth of colour and sweet smell. Touch the bark of a tree and hear the birds sing. This small addition to an everyday, often mundane task encourages you to live life in the present. You gain the opportunity to feel grateful for each moment.
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Writing a gratitude journal is an act of recognising and reaffirming to yourself what you feel grateful for. There are some simple ways to express gratitude externally which will also enhance your life.
Saying thank you is a simple way to show gratitude and appreciation. There are things in life we do ‘for the team’ as routine. When every day actions become routine, we often fall into the pattern of assigning an owner to the job. When this happens, it is easy to only focus on the deed when its forgotten; “you forgot to make the bed this morning, you didn’t put the bins out today, why haven’t you laid the table, you still haven’t hung your clothes up” etc! When we switch that and express gratitude the environment becomes a happier place.
Gratitude with Meaning
Gratitude has greater meaning when you communicate specifically. Rather than simply saying thanks, explain why you feel thanks. When your colleague brings you a cup of tea, instead of keeping your eyes at the computer and saying thanks with little meaning, stop what you are doing, make eye contact and express how you feel. “I really appreciate you making the bed this morning, I felt particularly rushed with such a short amount of time before I left the house, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to the top of the stairs and noticed that was one job ticked off the list” (Why you Shouldn’t Feel Pressure to Make your Bed Each Morning is the title of tomorrow’s blog post!)
I enjoy listening to Jay Shetty’s podcast to hear the way he expresses his gratitude to the guests. He starts and finishes each interview with a lovely explanation of why he appreciates the guest, their time, the information they shared and so on. A great role model for anyone struggling to find or express their appreciation.
So, when feeling down have a look around, delve deep inside and find some things that you are grateful for. Some people find that when they immerse themselves in nature, they find a lot to appreciate. If you struggle to find anything in your life to feel thankful for a nature walk may help you too.
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