Why practice gratitude?
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
When you wake up in the morning have you noticed how so much of what we do is automatic, you don’t have to think about which arm you put into your clothing first and we get up and brush our teeth without planning or procrastination. These activities have become so habitual that they become easy. A few years ago I tried out an activity called “three good things” for three days. At the end of each day I had to scan my memory for something good, reflect on why it was good and what a difference it had made to me or another. The aim of the activity is simple, as humans we are honed to find threats and respond to them, a lot of time and energy is spent on trying to avoid those threats or problem solve them through worry. This can lead to a distorted perception about how bad things are. By taking a couple of minutes to readdress the balance we start to hone our skill at also recalling the positives. It doesn’t even matter if you can’t think a positive, it is the act of intentionally searching for it that makes the recall easier and it also helps us pay attention to the positives as they are happening. – If someone helps me out or I do something that I am proud of I suddenly think “Oh I wonder if this will feature in the three good things tonight?” Over time the activity stopped being something I needed to put conscious effort into doing. It became like brushing my teeth, becoming a natural part of my routine. I didn’t consciously notice any benefits but in retrospect it became easier to notice my strengths, it became easier to allow myself to be an imperfect human and that having perceived flaws is part of that. It fostered self-compassion and body image significantly improved.
So why am I sharing this with you. Last week I released how important it was to intentionally do activities that enhance wellbeing as part of my day to day routine. A month ago I got some life changing news. It was not something that was within my control and it came out of the blue. It has left me with a lot of uncertainty and threw lots of plans up in the air. Naturally the situation was highly anxiety provoking and my mind went into overdrive with worry. However, out of the people effected by the news, I appeared to be managing it really well. When people asked me how I was doing, yes I did express anxiety and anger, but I also expressed how I was grateful for the amazing colleagues and friends I had who were checking in with me, I was confident that whilst things were uncertain I had the skills to deal with the situation and that once some time had passed I may be in an even better situation than I started in.
Now when we are experiencing anxiety and anger it is hard to do anything new or learn. Our emotions are telling are body that resources need to be spent on survival, so we rely on instinct to conserve energy. I had been practising gratitude for so long that it had become instinctual and it made a BIG difference. Yes, the situation was awful and provoking suffering but I had a tool I could use to manage the things beyond my control. So tonight, as you are brushing your teeth, take a few seconds to think about this blog and what you do in your life that serves you well, because when things are tough those things are your safety net.
Read more blogs by Sarah here.