Hugs and high fives, dewdrops and thunderstorms
These are just a few of the blessings I count.
I have a slightly conflicted relationship with gratitude. On the one hand, I’m aware I have much to be grateful for – so much – and I’m grateful for all of it.
On the other, I am wracked with guilt when I am grateful for having a warm, dry house during winter storms, for instance, when so many people do not, not least because it feels a little like I’m saying, “I’m so grateful I’m not you.”
But there’s no doubt that gratitude is a beneficial practice, and there’s good science to back that.
As social scientists are studying gratitude, they are finding that it benefits almost every area of our lives.
It increases our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, and has measurable benefits for everything from neurophysiology to inflammation.
The problem for me – as with almost any good habit I want to instil – is that I lack long-term consistency.
Someone (I forget who) described this as having a black belt in the partial arts: an image I can relate to on several levels. I start most things with great gusto and last a couple of days at most.
So, I love the idea of a gratitude journal: of writing down three things every day, just before bed, that you are grateful for.
Except I keep forgetting to do so, even with reminders set. I’m probably stating the obvious, but I am very easily distracted.
And so because of my forgetfulness and general distraction, and the slight guilt I mentioned before, I have decided to turn my attention from being grateful for the big things, to being grateful for the tiny things that I see or experience during the day, in the moment.
It’s essentially that old-fashioned notion of counting your blessings – and for me it’s not about counting, as in numbers, but in seeing and acknowledging the tiny things that truly count.
Even on days when everything goes wrong, there is still much to be grateful for – things that don’t require you to be wealthy or have all your ducks in a row. (I haven’t even seen my ducks in the past several months, to be perfectly honest.)
What am I grateful for as I go about my day?
I’m grateful for the way the winter sun streams onto my desk when the mornings are still brisk.
For the smell of coffee, of bacon sizzling, or bread baking. I’m grateful for the way dewdrops cling to flowers, the comfort of a hot mug of tea, or a crackling fire.
I’m grateful for the way that Highveld thunderstorms break the heat on a summer’s day. For hugs and high fives.
For chats on the phone with family or friends. For those simplest of seasonings: salt, pepper, sugar.
Should we be grateful for the big things we have? Of course. If you have a roof over your head, clothes to wear and food on the table, however simple, you’re better off than most.
But there’s so much more! We can bump up our happiness quotient enormously by being mindful and present in our gratitude rather than trying to recall what was good about a day when we’re tired and more than ready to surrender to sleep.
So, give it a try. Keep appreciating the big things in your life, but try too, to find joy in the small and seemingly insignificant moments.
By cultivating gratitude in the present, we can enhance our overall wellbeing and find contentment in the simplest of pleasures – and that sounds like a win-win situation to me.