For some of us, feeling grateful and building a year-round attitude of gratitude is a positive thing, bringing us a sense of wellbeing – and lasting benefits. For some of us, gratitude practices can evoke feelings of obligation and shame. If we are feeling down, trying to feel grateful – or worse, being told we ‘should’ be grateful, is unhelpful at best and can bring us down further. And, being asked to be grateful can make us compare ourselves and what we have with others, which makes it harder to be thankful for what we do have.
There are different approaches. The next time you get the chance to pause, you could try:
1) The ‘About Time’ method: Think about something important to you and imagine your life without it. In ‘About Time’, the lead has the power to go back in time in his life, reliving moments and improving on each. This is fine until he realises, he can’t go back beyond a certain point as it’ll change something he cherishes. Imagining life without something you value can bring a deeper appreciation for what you have than simply thinking about something and being grateful for it. As with all practices, this one, called mental subtraction, is best practised over time – and/or you could watch ‘About Time’, a heart-warming classic for a holiday!
2) ‘The Sound of Music’ method: Go easy on yourself. If thinking about what you're grateful for isn’t bringing you positive vibes, you’re not alone. You could try considering fortunate, practical, beautiful, things you have or are glad about instead. Think ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’ – and of things that aren’t physical things at all… how lucky you were to be born, or how you are able to think, feel and breathe, how wonderful getting a great night’s sleep is, tasting really good coffee, laughing with a friend, taking a walk, hugging trees…
3) The ‘Wonder’ method: Try being kind, on purpose. If you haven’t read or seen ‘Wonder’, then I heartily recommend it. It’s about a little boy with facial difference, and it is essentially about kindness. On his first day at school his headteacher quotes Dr. Dyer on the first day of term: “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." Being grateful may or may not work for you - acts of kindness bring us a sense of connection and belonging and make us feel good (literally as we get mood-boosting hits of oxytocin and dopamine). If someone else is making your Thanksgiving meal, you could help them – by helping, or by staying out of the way, whatever works for them! At home and at work, kindness inspires kindness and leads to increased wellbeing
I don’t know why I went down the movie route for these ponderings. I do know finding time to build habits that do us good is hard – and finding a dedicated time just for ourselves can feel like finding treasure. Coaching clients often say they value coaching for the time and space it gives them to pause, reflect and reset. If you might like me to hold space for you, get in touch.