This post has been a while in the coming, which will be evident if you know anything about Australian music. But I wrote this plane on the way to London for Christmas when I had a chance to actually sit down and do something for myself and now that I am back from holiday it was time to get blogging!
This is a post about gratitude. There is no doubt that gratitude is one of those ‘buzz’ concepts that is everywhere. Lots of shops sell gratitude journals and there are now a huge range of courses on gratitude. But what is it?
The obvious answer is that it is the act of being grateful for the things that are in your life. The ‘why does it work’ is slightly more complex. No one quite understands yet what predisposes people to being positive or negative thinkers (or whether it is nurture or nature) but the implications for happiness are vast (think back to my first post on CBT for an explanation as to for the reason why).
The most interesting thing about this is that it is relatively simple to retrain your brain to think more positively. One study showed that simply thinking about something for which you are grateful for 20 minutes (this was repeated weekly for three weeks in the study) led to profound neurological changes in the medial prefrontal cortex months after the intervention (see Kini et al., 2016 for details).
I work with my clients on this consistently; and have taken to starting every session by asking my clients to ‘name three good things that have happened this week’. The hope is that they will then find it easier to identify the positives in their life once they leave the room.
Recently I was in Sydney for the most amazing experience. My friend, Molly, invited me up to Sydney to see the Crowded House concert. This was a reunion show following their farewell show in the same place 20 years earlier. The position was on the steps of the Opera House, which was amazing!
We got to watch the sunset over the harbour and then to see one of the most iconic Australian bands play an incredible set. The band are fantastic showmen and the gig was relatively small and intimate. In addition to this Molly’s uncle is actually in the band so we got to go backstage after and I got this signed shirt for my dad (who is a huge fan!).
Needless to say I am grateful for the experience, for having friends who invite me to these things and for having the means to be able to fly up to Sydney to go to the show. It was an incredible experience that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
But it is important to focus on the small things that give you pleasure as well.
While I was in Sydney I picked up these adorable Gratitude cards from Kikki K which I have been using (almost) every day. They encourage you to be grateful for tiny things (one of my favourites was ‘what texture are you grateful for?’ – I was wearing a new hoodie at the time and that warm fuzzy new hoodie feeling came straight to mind!) and to practice retraining your brain to be more positive.
So take away lesson for today is: practice gratitude, think about what you have that you are grateful for, not what you don’t have. It can be an amazing experience or a tiny sensation. But practice daily positivity. While writing this blog post the following quote captured my attention:
‘what if you woke up tomorrow with only what you were grateful for today?’