Especially in times of distress, gratitude can be a powerful healer.
I have seen gratitude expressed by people in what would seem to be the most appalling situations – people suffering from severe illness, grief, poverty, hunger, those separated from loved ones, refugees, homeless people, prisoners. Their heartfelt ‘thank you s’ have humbled and inspired me.
In our own situation we may not suffer from any of these extremes, yet we still experience things which worry us, which keep us awake at night. These could be obsessive thoughts that go round and round in our heads, thoughts we seem helpless to stop, fears for ourselves, for our children, and for the troubled world we live in.
There can be times when gratitude feels like a bad joke, something cheesy that a Life Coach such as me would suggest, an easy escape from the 'real’ world. It is precisely at those times when there seems nothing to be grateful for, especially then, that gratitude is most powerful.
One reaction from people who are in distress is to compare their own situation to that of others. “What am I complaining about?” they ask. “I am in good health, I have a job, a house, friends, enough money to feed myself... I’ve no right to complain. Look at all the people in the world who do not have those things, I should be grateful.”
I challenge that attitude. Sincere gratitude does not depend on what you have compared to what others do not have. My happiness does not depend on your sadness.
Gratitude involves acknowledging what is good in your life. It involves pausing for a few minutes each day, quietly spotting the things that make you feel good – the armchair you are sitting in, an object in your room that you particularly like, the smell of coffee or whatever from the kitchen, a loved one.
You can quietly remember the good things that have happened recently, a heartwarming conversation, a task you have completed (e.g., I am grateful that yesterday between the showers I managed to get our lawn cut!), a word of thanks from someone you have helped.
Some people keep a gratitude journal, where they write down things that they are grateful for each day. This helps them focus on the positive aspects of their life, appreciate what they have, and cultivate a more optimistic outlook.
An important way to experience gratitude is to express it to others, saying thank you, or giving compliments.
Researchers tell us that gratitude is strongly related to wellbeing, happiness, satisfaction, and resilience. It can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and enhance physical and mental health.
Gratitude is an attitude that transforms things. It is a powerful emotion that brings abundance into our lives. As someone once said:
“If you concentrate on what you do not have, you will never have enough; If you are thankful for what you do have, you will end up having much more. “
Thomas Hillas. Pendine, Wales Aug 2023