Like most, I have been through a few really rough patches in my life. They tend to accumulate and can weigh you down completely if you don’t find a way to reenergise and reframe the experiences. Before you know it, you could be looking at life through a really negative, foggy, distorted lens. I know this happened to me and I felt complete despair and hopelessness privately for many years. I was miserable, depressed and joy was definitely missing from my life.
Once word and a daily practice changed it all?
I was at my aunty’s house many years ago during this really rough patch in my life. She asked me to pick a card. My card was gratitude. She said, ‘That’s a great card. It means you need to be more grateful or there is more gratitude coming into your life’. I remember thinking ‘What the hell have I got to be grateful for? … absolutely nothing’. On the way home I kept thinking about the word and decided, out of desperation, to try and think of three things each day to be grateful for each day. It was extremely tough at first. I kept repeating the same things, ‘… my bed is comfortable, I have a roof over my head and food to eat’. I could say the words but didn’t feel much positivity about them. Slowly, I was able to expand the list and it become easier to add new items day by day: ‘I have a great job, a wonderful family, a car, some great friendships etc’. After around 2-3 months I found myself listing dozens and dozens of things I was grateful for. After 6 months it was hundreds. Somehow I found myself feeling happier and looking for the good and magic in life. I realised I was much happier more often! Now, I understand I had rewired my brain or retrained it to look for the good. It’s hard to explain how powerful this shift was. The process over a couple of months of daily practice really took me from misery to regular feelings of joy, appreciation and wonder. It has been well over 10 years since I started my gratitude practice. I don’t consciously do it every day unless I hit a rough patch, but feel I am always aware and looking for the good, the miracles, the synchronicities, the blessings and just plain old good luck that always seems to come my way. I think it always has … Now I just notice and give thanks each day.
I highly recommend a daily gratitude practice. It really can change your life for the better. I was fortunate to meet and hear Hugh van Cuylenburg speak twice in 2019. Hugh is the Founding Director of The Resilience Project which is about daily practices of gratitude, empathy and mindfulness or GEM to support great mental health. Hugh recommends asking, ‘What went well today?’ instead of ‘What am I grateful for?’ Asking, ‘What went well today?’ tends to generate deeper thinking and you are less likely to rattle of the same things each day without much thought. He also recommends having this conversation around the dinner table to share what went well today and what you can look forward to tomorrow. Love it!
Some top tips for a daily practice…
- Just start! It only takes a couple of minutes and is a wonderful investment.
- Keep a gratitude journal and add positive thoughts each day. Writing things down is powerful. It’s a good way to check your progress and remind yourself if you have a tough day that you are blessed.
- Don’t worry if you find it hard to start. One thing a day is fine. Just try and stick with it.
- Download The Resilience Project App if you find apps easier– currently $4.49.
- Ask yourself, ‘What went well today?” and ‘What am I looking forward to tomorrow?’ and extend this to the dinner table discussion.
- Write a thank you note
- Finding some quiet time to reflect each day is important. Even if it’s just a few minutes.
- If negative thoughts keep coming up perhaps close your eyes and just do some simple deep breathing.
- Be kind to yourself. Starting a new practice can take time.
‘Einstein was right. You can live your life as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is a miracle. You can see magic in the tiniest atom right out to the entire unfathomable universe, or you can just see the particular small world of your existence. It is largely up to you how you perceive the world.’