“All we are and all we need,
Is all we are and all we need to be.”
I’ve been in the happiness and wellbeing space for five years now. While the science is advancing and always finding out new nuances, there are some themes that are steadfast. There are some things that remain stubbornly fixed as “stuff you should do to feel better”. And one of those is gratitude.
Yup. Whether it’s diaries, memes or meditations, being thankful for the things you have is a perennial favourite. Gratitude forms a key part of the 12-step programme for addiction. It is regularly used within Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to combat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.
And with good reason. It genuinely makes you happier. Five minutes of gratitude journalling a day can boost your happiness by 10% – you’d need to double your income to get that! It makes us feel healthier, with regular journallers feeling less physical pain and less likely to visit a doctor. It improves sleep and may even help you live longer. It can improve our performance at work, make us a better manager and thus boost our careers. And it overall just makes us a nicer, more likeable person.
So what is gratitude? I like this description from Psychology Today:
Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude
Gratitude gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate the things we have which, in turn, can reduce our cravings for other things. It’s interesting to reflect on this in the context of the rising cost of living in the UK at the moment. And while gratitude absolutely cannot fill stomachs or warm bodies (and I would never suggest that it can), almost everyone is affected by rising prices and we’re all wondering where we can pinch some pennies.
This has got me to thinking how a culture of gratitude can help those of us who might need to limit our pleasure spending. Having fun doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t have to make all your Facebook friends or Instagram followers go “wow!” YOUR pleasure is YOUR pleasure, not anyone else’s.
So whether you are looking to reduce your spending or not, can you have a think about these questions:
- Do you already own something that you haven’t enjoyed for ages? Maybe something that’s got buried in the attic or stuffed away in a drawer. It might even be something you saw and thought, “oooh, that would be fun,” but that you never even opened. I have four guitars. And a piano. I love playing the guitar but I very rarely pick them up. If I can re-cultivate my gratitude for learning guitar as a child, I can get great pleasure from that without spending any more money.
- Can you have fun with other people without spending any money? Or at least without spending a LOT of money? Does time off with the family always have to involve going somewhere expensive? I suddenly realised that one of the loveliest things about visiting my parents and my sister is that we no longer feel the need to make plans. I just go and hang out at their houses. We are comfortable in each other’s company enough to not need to manufacture anything more. Can you just appreciate the company of your friends and family?
- Can you simply spend time being grateful for the things you have? The small things that you have in your every day? The first cup of tea or coffee. A hug or a kiss from a loved one. The view from the window. The comfort of your bed at night. We choose to do these things so can we appreciate them to their fullest?
- Can you be grateful for other aspects of your life. Your rights and privileges. We might not love our governments or the current direction of travel, but we can appreciate the rights and advantages we have compared to other countries or to the past.
The more I’m involved in the world of wellbeing, the more acutely aware I become that suggesting a change of mindset has to be tempered with the fact that you can’t just think your way out of all of the problems in your life. Sometimes you need to make changes. Sometimes others need to make changes, whether it’s governments or employers. However, mindset adjustments do have a place, especially for those who are materially coping but feeling disillusioned with where we currently are.
Gratitude is a huge part of Find Your Flow, one of my elements of satisfaction. Both finding our flow and gratitude are about being centred into a present moment. It’s almost like magic, the idea of conjuring joy from thin air. Except it’s not thin air. Just because things aren’t new doesn’t mean they should stop bringing us satisfaction. Just because you don’t actually own the sun doesn’t mean it can’t bring you the most immense happiness.