When Martin Seligman was in Melbourne some years ago, I went to listen to him speak. He’s a warm teddy-bear-of-a-man who admits to being a born pessimist (despite the fact that he writes books about optimism). One of the things that helps him through difficult days is practising gratitude.
When you’re having an ordinary day (or week), being thankful for small things can lift your mood just a little.
Be grateful for:
1. Your mind
The single thing that has changed my life more than anything else was discovering that I could change the way I think. Certainly it’s helped that I learned to meditate 20 years ago, but you can change your mind without meditation. You just need to watch your thoughts and notice how many of them are negative. Then actively practise a few positive thoughts each day (Seligman calls this exercise ‘Three Blessings’). Neuropsychologists now believe that we really can change our minds by changing the way we think.
2. Your physical wellbeing
A few friends of mine have been diagnosed with serious illnesses in the past few years. I take care of my own wellbeing more than ever before and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to walk and cycle and to have the physical ability to do pretty much anything I choose. Whatever your state of physical health, be thankful for the things that are good and take care of yourself as best you can.
Even on the most difficult days, a walk in the park makes a difference. Being in nature is therapeutic. Find the closest park and have your lunch there today.
4. A home
When you climb into bed tonight be grateful that you have a place to sleep that’s warm and safe.
In this country you can change your job, your city, your clothes, your political views and, for the most part, you can freely express your opinions without fear of retribution.
It seems that all around there are people coming up with clever and beautiful ideas that help us to see the world through new eyes. Look for free concerts and events in your city.
When we’re feeling flat we usually have a tendency to take it all too seriously. Find things that make you laugh.
8. Your work
Even if you don’t love what you do, be thankful for having any employment at all. In Western society we expect we should love what we do every day (and ideally we’ll keep working towards that) but while much of the world is in economic turmoil, we need to be grateful that we have any work at all.
9. All that is going well
The newspapers are full of stories about trains that don’t run on time and politicians that break their promises. We don’t see reports about the fact that our streets are clean of sewage and the medical care we have access to is on par with the best in the world. Yes, there’s more to do but we need to remember the good.
10. Quality food
Twenty years ago, I spent almost six months living on a small island in Fiji while Chris was working on a film there. The thing that I missed the most (and that eventually made me so sick that I needed to come home) was access to fresh food.
11. Clean air
Whenever you travel to a developing country you realise just how blessed we are to have clear skies, sunshine and air that smells clean. Look at the stars tonight and be thankful you can see them.
12. Access to wisdom and knowledge
We live in an age where we can easily find the answers to all of our questions. Keep learning, be curious, read.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kate James is a coach, speaker and writer. She works with people who want to live confident, creative lives. Kate can be contacted at www.totalbalance.com.au.’