I don’t believe in God (in the sense of a paternal figure on a cloud).
But a childhood of being taken to church by my parents has left its mark.
As I’m about to go to sleep, I sometimes find myself saying,
🌟 “Thank you God for today”
🌟 “Thank you God for my precious family”
🌟 “Thank you God for my health”
It’s a little gratitude ritual that is almost unconscious.
Gratitude is proven to be good for your mental wellbeing.
Various studies have shown that by focussing on things that you are grateful for makes you more optimistic, and enables you to feel better about your life.
This is unsurprising - it is proven that the brain has a 4:1 bias in favour of negative thoughts and memories.
(This is probably as a result of your brain being programmed to keep you alive: it was more important to remember where the sabre-toothed tiger lived than to remember the joy you felt at your baby’s smile…)
So without actual intervention on your part, your perspective on your life will be more negative than the reality.
Focussing on the positive redresses this balance.
And focussing on the positive is even proven to be beneficial for your physical wellbeing.
In one study, participants who were focussing on what they were grateful for exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor, in contrast with people focussing on things that irritated or upset them.
In addition, actually expressing this gratitude has been shown to have an enormous impact.
One group were asked to write and personally deliver a thank you letter to someone who had never been previously thanked for their kindness.
Those writing the letters immediately had a massive increase in their happiness levels, and this improvement lasted a whole month.
So this important end point - end of a year, end of a decade - is a great opportunity to express gratitude and ensure you have an undistorted appreciation of what has gone before.
This process will guide you to do this.
1. Recognise who has contributed to your successes
In last week’s blog I suggested you come up with ten successes you’re proud of from 2019, and ten successes from this decade.
Now, have a look at that list and think about who has helped you achieve these successes:
Is it your family, who have supported you?
Is it a particular boss or mentor at work, who has guided and encouraged you?
Is it a friend, who has been your shoulder to lean on?
Recognise these people and their contribution to your achievements - you may want to write them down.
2. Who or what else are you grateful for?
There will be other things, unrelated to your successes, for which you are grateful.
(For me, staying healthy is ALWAYS something I’m grateful for - even writing this today with a grotty cold…)
Recognise these people or things - again, you may want to write them down.
3. Express gratitude
Now would be a great time to express your gratitude to these people or things.
You can do this in all sorts of ways:
taking a moment with your eyes closed to mentally thank the person or the situation that you are grateful for
if it feels right to you, saying a prayer
or you could actually write a thank you letter or card (think of the win/win in terms of your spike in happiness levels…)
4. Focus on gratitude regularly
At this time of making resolutions, you might decide to build a habit of a gratitude practice for 2020 and beyond.
It could be as simple and informal as my sleepy thoughts.
Or you could create a gratitude journal, and count your blessings daily or weekly.
As Buddha said, “what we think, we become”.
By focussing on the positive aspects your life, you will help build and sustain a positive mindset.
And that is at the root of all success - and happiness.
5. Exercise compassion
Finally, a corollary of gratitude is compassion.
This is about not just being grateful for what we have; but having sympathy to those who are without.
It can also be used to help us forgive those who have hurt us.
A very powerful form of compassion is the Buddhist “loving kindness” meditation, “metta bhavana”.
This is where you take a few minutes to beam loving kindness and compassion on:
🌟 first, yourself
🌟 second, loved ones
🌟 third, others you have no special relationship with
🌟 and finally, someone you’ve been angry with.
As St Augustine said, holding onto anger and resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the person you hate to die.
If you can free yourself from these negative emotions, you will be liberated to recognise the good in your life, and be grateful for it.
(This practice might also come in useful over Christmas!)
So from me, thank you to you all for your support and encouragement over the last year of blogging.
Thank you for choosing me as your coach, and for allowing me to be a part of your transformation.
I have loved every minute of our journey together 😍
And I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, full of magic, love and joy!
p.s. if you'd like us to go on a journey of transformation in 2020, get in touch!
If you book your intro call before Christmas (even if the call isn't until January), you can make the most of 2019 prices before they go up on 1st January 2020.
Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to book your intro call.