Gratitude, is it just another fad?!?
There's a lot of focus on gratitude these days, with many shops selling gratitude journals and books, but surely it has to be a fad, how can saying you’re grateful for things every day really change how you feel?
That was my opinion when the practitioner I was working with to recover from ME/CFS suggested it, but I was desperate, I had lost any sense of there being anything good in my life and I couldn’t see a way out, so I tried it.
I have to admit at first it was hard to think of things and there were days when sarcasm would come out “I’m grateful that I have people to help me through this sh!t”. However as I continued it became easier, I found that I could think of different things to be grateful for each day despite still being so ill that I barely left the house.
The things I was grateful for were often simple things, like the sounds of the birds outside my bedroom window while I enjoyed a cup of tea in bed or for the laugh my husband managed to give me each day (usually mocking my sorry state). It really seemed to shift how I was thinking, I’m not saying that practicing gratitude each day will change all the challenges in your life, but it can change how you feel about them. At the time I didn’t understand how this was the case, it wasn’t until I was completing my training to be a therapist that I saw what had actually happened.
Our thoughts are habitual, we will often repeat the same ones or the same thought patterns several times a day. When we do something over and over it strengthens, like with training a muscle. By doing a daily gratitude practice we are training the muscles of a new kind of thought or neural pathway and the less we use the old way of thinking the weaker those muscles get, we can literally change the wiring of our brains.
At first it may feel hard to do and unnatural, but the more we do it the stronger it gets and it becomes habitual. In doing a daily practice I slowly trained my brain to stop waking up and thinking of all the things I couldn’t do and trained it to wake up and think of what I could do and enjoy. Of course like any muscle, you stop using it and you loose it so that’s why its so important to make it a daily practice to keep that muscle strong.
The key to keeping up to it is making it work for you in your day, some of my clients have a jar next to their bed with colourful post it notes and every morning or night they write down one or a few things they are grateful for and fill up the jar. They then read some of them at new year or their birthdays to reflect on the year gone by. I have other clients who like to write it down in a note book or journal and others who like to use it as a way to reflect on their day with their families while round the dinner table. Some have a group message chat with family or friends where they all share what they are grateful for. As long as its something you can remember to do most days how you do it is entirely up to you.
My practice is to each morning write down 3 things I’m grateful for, one thing I’m grateful for about myself to develop my self love, one about those around me to keep me appreciating them, and one about general life such as having a roof over my head or that the sun is shining. Doing this helps me reflect on all areas of my life. If you are in a dark place and this seems impossible, start really basic, ‘Im grateful for this breath’ is something that is always with you.
This is something I’ve been doing for around 4 years now and I wouldn’t be without it, give it a go and see what you think.
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