How can you end your year with gratitude?
If you are a
glass half full person when you look back on 2013, your mind probably focuses
on all the positive things that happened, all the fun things you did, people
you saw, places you went, what you achieved. If you are a glass half empty person,
you might focus on the work or holidays that didn’t go as planned, the health
problems or the things you didn’t achieve. As a recovering pessimistic, ‘glass
half empty’ person I have to work hard at staying positive and optimistic, and
this is where gratitude has come in this year.
When I spoke to one client
about writing down your ‘gratitudes’, he said, ‘Who am I meant to be grateful
to?’. I think this is a common mis-conception, a leftover from any religious
backgrounds we might have grown up in, that we are supposed to be grateful for
our lot or grateful to something outside us.
My experience of writing gratitudes is that they might be
about people in my life, a lovely sunny day, having a lovely warm home, a kind
gesture from a friend and sometimes something from the past.
Research in Positive Psychology has shown that if people
write down three things they are grateful for each day it has a significant
impact on their levels of happiness, even for people who are mildly depressed.
Over the years,
from time to time, if I find myself slipping into complaint I start to write
down my three gratitudes. I do it for maybe a week and it changes around my
thought processes. In June this year I decided to write my three gratitudes
every day (or most days, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t!). And the impact
has been huge. I’ve noticed that even on days when I have felt low, sad or fed
up, by writing down three things I am grateful for has helped me considerably.
I have decided to continue to do it for as long as it works for me, as I enjoy
the process and how good it makes me feel.
It has been interesting reflect on my gratitudes:
As you can see, it doesn’t have to be grand happenings in
your life, being grateful for the simple things is where deep contentment can
be found. It is also a great way of turning the glass is half empty to a glass
is half full.
- Most have been about the previous 24 hours, which makes me
focus on my current situation and what I am grateful for right now.
- About two thirds have been about people, which has surprised
me but has made me so grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. I have
on occasions shared my gratitude with them, which has been a nice process.
- Gratitudes for small things like when it eventually rained
after such a long hot summer or when we have a sunny day after lots of rain!
- Gratitude for the flowers someone left on my doorstep as a
thank you for something I did for them.
- Gratitude for my circumstances, my lovely home, my reliable
car, my trusty bike, etc., etc.
Back in 2010 I wrote an
Inspire about the downsides to positive thinking (click here) and I still believe that the way to being positive is to be authentic and
honest about how we feel and, if we are experiencing negative feelings, that we
need to care and nurture ourselves, process those emotions and eventually move
towards a more positive place. I think that saying to yourself or others, to
just ‘think positively’ when you are low, sad, angry, upset, etc. is not always
the answer, and can in fact make you feel even worse, especially if you end up
beating yourself up for feeling low.
This is where the F**k it exercise comes in…. In September I
was due to go on holiday and my back went and I couldn’t go, and for various
reasons this was the only holiday I was having this year (quite unusual for
me). The next day I heard some tragic news about a young friend of a friend
whom I’ve known for years who was dying of CJD, which put my back problems in
perspective, and my thoughts and Buddhist chanting went to supporting her. It
also made me very grateful for my situation despite the very bad back.
Then about two months on with my back (although not in
crisis) still playing up, and having spent money on treatment, a monitor for my
laptop and a new office chair, money which I would rather have spent on
something more fun, I found myself very tired after bad allergies, a very early
start and in pain and I thought F**k it. So instead of my gratitudes I wrote in
my diary F**king this, F**king that, there were a long list of things I was
F**ked off with, and the last one was F**k gratitude!!! And you know what, I
felt so good at the end of it, it was really cathartic – so I have been
recommending it to my clients, some of whom are facing really challenging
situations and where, not surprisingly, they have been finding it hard to stay
positive. You’ll find that once you have got all the things off your chest,
then you can start to move to a more positive place.
If there are things you need to get off your chest about
2013 or about your current situation, then list them out, swear if necessary or
just go aagghh!! Then later you can move onto your gratitudes.
What are your top ten gratitudes
for 2013? Think about sharing these with others and encouraging your family and
friends to share theirs over the festive season. Sarah, my PA, suggested we
share them on Twitter, so tweet me your top gratitudes at MelanieInspires, #inspiregratitude.
On Friday 10 January 3 – 4pm
GMT I will be hosting a FREE ‘Set Your Goals For 2014’ webinar to help you to clarify
what you really want from 2014 and how you can manage your mind and mood to
achieve your goals. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
to book your free space.