Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
The subject of gratitude seems to be very present at the moment, it’s coming up in a lot of blogs and a lot of conversations. Not just the topics we feel grateful about, but also how practising gratitude can be a positive thing to do in your life. I normally try and avoid anything too populist in my column but this week I thought I’d diverge from that as gratitude is a subject quite close to my heart.
About 6 years ago my life had come to a sort of crisis point and I was in a bad way. Things needed to change in a very drastic way for me to move forward. I don’t mean external things, I had a great job, a lovely place to life and a great partner, but the way I felt inside was bad, and that is what I needed work on. My way of thinking had become relentlessly negative, I felt unhappy with every aspect of my life even though I realised on an intellectual level that I had it pretty good, really good actually.
Practising gratitude became a cornerstone of that. One of the things I did was spend some time working with a mentor of sorts and he impressed on me that if I wanted my life to change and stay changed, I needed to find some gratitude. At a low ebb I did not have much. In truth, I had a lot of self pity going on. His advice, that by staying grateful I would never go back to the way I was before, stuck with me, and I worked on it and it’s one of the most positive things I’ve done in my life to date.
Spending time focusing and thinking about the things I am grateful for shifts me into a positive mindset. Where before I would dwell on my problems, now I look to what is good that is going on, and there’s a lot. It doesn’t mean I turn into a choir boy with magic rainbows appearing as I skip through meadows, I’m far too grumpy for any of that, but it does mean that my overall perspective on life starts from a position of positivity. When I start to think about the things I am grateful for, it sets me noticing all the things in my life that are good today and by keeping all of that in mind, I find I am generally a happier person. It doesn’t mean I don’t have ups and downs, everyone does, but I don’t feel anywhere near approaching the nadir I hit 6 years ago.
There are a lot of ways to practise gratitude but I’m going to share two that work for me. First, I pick something that I am grateful for as I am drinking my morning coffee. I choose just one thing, though sometimes it is hard to pick. I do it first thing in the morning because I am generally at my grumpiest as I read my email and after having done my calisthenics, so it’s the time I really need to focus on what’s good, not how much I hate press ups or an annoying email I may have received overnight. When I have that one thing I write it down. It does not need to be unique or earth shattering, this morning I felt grateful because we’ve got sunshine and the deepest blue sky out the window. Sometimes I might feel grateful to start the day hearing the kids playing in their room, sometimes it’s because I’m seeing family or friends later on. It doesn’t need to be the biggest thing ever, the purpose is simply to turn my focus away from exercise related aches and the fact that I’d really rather be in bed and onto something more positive. Once I focus like that, my focus will usually stay in that direction. The next thing I do is to take pictures of the things I am grateful for. First and foremost this is people, my family, a small but close group of people is first on the list but places come in there as well. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to travel to some pretty cool places. I always take pictures of how they are so I can remind myself. I upload these pictures to Facebook so that I can access them where ever I am and from time to time I flick through my albums remembering happy times and happy places.
It all sounds very new age and I’d be sceptical too except for the fact that I met that old mentor in person many times and he is the most down to earth and practical guy one could imagine. Try it for a month, find a way to focus on your gratitude, log it somewhere as it becomes real when you do and see how you feel at the end of the month. You’ll feel better I think.
If you want to start practising more gratitude yourself, why not join Laura’s Be positive every day in May challenge?