Don’t let gratitude be a platitude
It’s happened! I heard a Christmas song being played in my village shop today! (It’s not even December – surely, it’s still too early?!).
Already, my children are producing ‘the list’. Depending on their age, it’s either being given directly to me or my husband, or it’s being put in an envelope addressed to Santa. I have to be quick off the mark and make sure I see the contents before it wings its way to the North Pole, otherwise, if I don’t see that list – there’ll be questions as to why Santa didn’t fulfil this year’s wishes and as a parent, you may well know how tricky that conversation is…
I’m being asked by my parents and in-laws what I’d like for Christmas (why is everyone so much more prepared than me this Christmas?! It comes but once a year, it’s the same date each time and yet it always seems to catch me out…!) and I’ve no idea what I’d like… It’s all just stuff isn’t it? I love the memes and posts on Facebook which urge people not to get into debt at Christmas – all because they think gifts to their loved ones must be bought to show their love and thanks and of course to reciprocate the whole gift giving process with everyone else they swap presents with.
I think being grateful for what we’ve already got is good for the soul – to take stock of what we have and for the opportunities available to us, compared to so many others.
I saw a wonderful post on social media which is food for thought about what we can feel grateful for:
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude” Gilbert K. Chesterton
It’s true though isn’t it? Very often we moan and whine about the things in life which very often, many would give their eye teeth for. We perhaps don’t give a second thought to what we have right in front of us and take it all for granted. Yes, we might lead busy lives but surely whilst we’re chasing our tail, we’re losing sight of what’s really important in life. When we shuffle off this mortal coil will we think: “I’m so glad I worked those extra hours for that big bonus” or “thank goodness everything in my home was always perfect and looking nice” or, are we more likely to treasure the sunset walks we had with our loved one, the family fun playing board games whilst the dust continued to gently pile up on the mantelpiece…? It’s thinking about what and who are important to us and valuing what we have but sometimes, perhaps we’re working within the permieters of aspirational values and need to remember what our consciously chosen values are.
I keep a Gratitude JournaI and always find it helpful to write down three things every day. Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way of staying connected to and focused on the good stuff, as well as acting as a motivational tool if / when times get tough. It doesn’t have to be some swanky mole-skinned number – it could be a pocket notebook but think about keeping a record of all the things that happen that you are grateful for. These can be small or large, and isn’t necessarily just about appreciating the kind actions that other people have wanted to do for you, it’s also about being thankful for the little unexpected things in life that put the extra spring in your step. For example, the shop assistant with the sincere smile, a driver slowing down to let you cross the road when you’re in a hurry, the downpour that doesn’t start until you’ve reached your front door and there being your shoe size in your favourite pair in the sale.
Once you begin to focus on gratitude, through Confirmation Bias, your brain will then be looking for the positive things in life that proves you right – that there’s a lot to be grateful for. You’ll find yourself surrounded by good stuff – thus generating even more good stuff! Make a habit of writing in your gratitude journal each evening; you’ll be amazed at how quickly it fills up.
The benefits of living life consciously
If you’re having a particularly challenging day or you’re perhaps feeling blue and feel like everything and everyone’s against you, you can look through your notes and see all the wonderful stuff which happens in your world. You can literally write anything in this journal – I write when my neighbour brings my wheelie bin back to my house, when I catch the post in time, when a tractor driver waits to pull out onto the narrow road I’m travelling on, so I can drive past first. These are the little things in life we take for granted but which very often can give us a little boost when we’re consciously aware of them.
As we say on the Winning Edge course, it’s about living life consciously – it’s not about putting a positive spin on everything and wearing rose tinted glasses because that’s just not real life – conscious thinking is what helps us to notice what’s going on around us, to help us to live in the moment.
I will leave you with this slightly over the top clip I saw on social media recently – it reminds us that we are surrounded by things to be grateful for – it does go into the minutiae but it was a good thought-provoker whilst Christmas lists are being shoved under my nose!