One of my first experiences of gratitude really turning my life around was when I was very ill with ME/CFS. I couldn’t leave my bed most of the time let alone the house. I became very lonely, isolated, and quite negative and was starting to get very depressed again. I read a book called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman that made me realise I was making myself worse by thinking this way. I learned that I needed to live more in the ‘now’ and learn to appreciate and be grateful what I could do, and did have. Focusing my time and energy on what I couldn’t do was a complete waste of my precious energy; it doesn’t get you anywhere apart from further down the slippery negativity slope. So I started to sit at my window instead of in bed and when I could I’d sit in the garden. I started to notice so much more around me. I realised I’d had blinkers on before I got really ill, because I was always busy rushing around doing ‘important’ things and not noticing what a beautiful world I lived in.
As a child I had been taught all about nature, the Planet and our environment, but somewhere along the line I’d lost my connection with it, or should I say I’d just plain stopped noticing it was even there, even though it was right there, right in front of me!
When I started sitting at my window and noticing the birds, animals, insects and even the trees, I became quite overwhelmed by how much of this amazing world I had been missing out on. It was right there in my garden and my street. I would sit for hours watching the birds and the squirrels coming and going in the garden and how the garden changed throughout the seasons. This in turn meant that I started to notice more about what was going on inside my home as well as outside. I became so grateful for everything and everyone in my life and although I wasn’t fit enough to do the things I used to do, I was honestly so grateful for what I could do, see and notice now and if anything I felt a little sad I’d been walking around with blinkers on for so long.
It’s amazing what a small shift in thinking can do to our overall pleasure from life. I couldn’t do any more than I could the day, week, or year before but I gained so much more from my life. I saw pleasant things and little miracles happening every single day that I just hadn’t noticed before. Nothing else had changed, only my perspective and WOW! what a difference that had made.
So here’s a little gratitude experiment:
What are you grateful for today? Not what you can’t do, haven’t got, wish you could change. What are you actually grateful for in your life right now? I sometimes have people say things like ‘there’s nothing good in my life to be grateful for’ but if you start small and work your way up you’ll find it easier. This could be health, love, family, pets, time, space, warmth, friendship, nature, peace, the ability to read, work, food, your hair, your smile, the smile of a friend, the lessons you’ve learned or any of the other amazing things, little or large that are happening in your day-to-day life.
Write down at least 21 things you’re grateful for. Get into a habit of doing this daily (you can list less than 21 things each day if you find this easier). Instead of listing off all the things you see as negative in your life, list the positive. I know this seems like a silly little experiment, but trust me on this; it forms new habits, new pathways in the brain and a whole new perspective on your life!
You could write these down in on your phone or computer, in your notebook, on scraps of paper in a gratitude jar (and empty the jar to read these once a year) or you could get one of the many really lovely gratitude journals out there. There are even beautiful children’s versions of these journals. They can draw and write what they are grateful for, installing happy, positive habits, memories and keepsakes in your children about gratitude from a young age and having fun whilst doing it.
The final little titbit for this chapter: It’s great to get into the habit of listing what you’re grateful for, just before bed as it promotes the release of happy, relaxing and sleep inducing chemicals in the body and actually helps you to drift off into a much more peaceful and relaxing sleep. Winner!
Would any of you care to share what you’re grateful for today in the comments section below?
Here’s some links to some more Gratitude pages out there: