Part of my role is to listen to all the bad things that happen to people. I help them to talk about their dashed hopes and dreams as a result of the breakdown of a significant relationship or experiences on deployment or tension at work. As you could expect that tends to become fairly negative, so in order to keep things in perspective as we close, I often try to help them to recognise that bad things happen to everybody, and to see that there are still some positives! Amidst all the doom and gloom it is important that they can see and be thankful for all those other things they usually take for granted. Sometimes it is a struggle, but gratitude for family and friends, secure job, adequate housing, stable government, good health, plenty of food and clean water may seem like “small stuff” but in context of world statistics those things are BIG!
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the bad stuff, maybe it is time to ponder some of those other good things in your life, and write them down. My psychologist friends could give you a long list of the psychological benefits of doing this and give you a bunch of “mindfulness” exercises but it is not that complicated! In my experience, practising gratitude stops you focussing on the past and allows you to see the present in a new light. Yes, you need to learn from the past but you can’t live there! Did you know that gratefulness and positive thinking in general have been proven to have long term health benefits both mentally and physically?
Try this exercise. Stop right now and make a list of all the things you are grateful for today, big and small. Don’t stop till you have about 20 on the list! It might be the fact that the sun is shining today, the coffee was great or that the magpie did not attack you this morning. Consider the smile you got from a colleague or the relief you feel for finishing a project. Anything and everything! Now pick one and do something with it. As an example, I am thankful for my wife who loves me and doesn’t kick me out when I snore. So I am now going to send her a text message saying that! What are you going to do?
“When it comes to life,
the critical thing is whether you take things for granted
or take them with gratitude.”
Gratitude is one of the things that I incorporate daily in my journal, so don’t just do this as a one off, choose to make it part of your life.
Padre Ian Whitley
I S Whitley AM