12. Delving into Gratitude

In my December blog I explained how gratitude can bring a new attitude to your interactions with yourself and those around you. We all have the ability to shape our thoughts and these can be pleasurable or painful. The way we handle our interactions with others will also have an effect on us and affect the receiver of the interaction.

‘To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.’ – Oscar Wilde.

How do we cultivate a simple and achievable way to bring Gratitude into our daily lives?

As with all aspects of our lives we need to practice our gratitude muscles (yep, the brain and those wonderful neurons) to rewire the way we see, feel, interact and touch those around us, including ourselves. The more we practice gratitude the easier it becomes. This can lead us to an unlocking of ourselves, moving from a mode of just ‘doing’ to a mode of ‘being’.

The following ten tips are an outline of living with more gratitude, also incorporating some great  mindful techniques.

  1. Begin and end each day with gratitude. Use a journal or, if you have a family, consider using a gratitude jar. Each morning and evening, put in a note of the people, events or things for which you are grateful.
  2. Choose happiness. Check your thinking process. For example, what thoughts are going through your mind right now? Are they joyful? Are they happy? Or have you slipped into a repetitive practice of negativity?
  3. Take time to SLOW down. Rest, reflect and soak up and appreciate what is around you. By slowing down racing thoughts and getting rid of distractions (including your tablet/smart phone, TV) you are giving yourself time to stop and just be. We all function better when we appreciate what we have and where we are. SMELL those roses. Allow yourself to daydream.
  4. Say thank you to yourself (and others). Take the time to say thank you to yourself for your achievements, an experience, a learning, overcoming a challenge (or life lesson). By thanking ourselves and others we are giving and receiving a gift to ourselves and sending on a blessing to another person or group. It’s also a strong acknowledgement of gratitude.
  5. Reinforce your life vision and purpose each day. This creates depth to experiences through doing things you love and being surrounded by like-minded people who create a positive, supportive bond. You might consider writing out favourite quotes, creating an inspirational vision board and placing it where you see it daily.
  6. Daily affirmations. Affirmations are powerful statements of your truth. Take time to write down a positive statement or to speak it aloud, perhaps in front of a mirror. Repeat it as many times as necessary till you feel yourself letting go of any resistance to the statement. Letting the resistance go is the key and this helps the subconscious rewire for the positive statement.
  7. Live more mindfully. Work with the present moment and feel it encompass you. Allow yourself to be led by your senses and not the brain. For example, when walking to work take time to enjoy the colours of neighbours’ doors, or their gardens. Notice the smells in the air. What catches your eye? How does the fabric feel on your skin as you walk? What sounds have you noticed? Take time to focus on what’s around you instead of on your phone!
  8. Connect with nature. Each day try to connect to nature by having a walk in a park or going into your back yard. Feel the sun, wind, rain, grass and earth under your feet. Take time to notice something in nature. Maybe it’s a tree – take time to notice the trunk, its branches, how small or large it is, the texture of the bark, the colour of the leaves, whether the leaves are glossy or matt, rounded or sharp. You could do this with a flower, herb or anything that you choose. Consciously use all of your senses. By taking time to notice nature you are connecting to your surrounds and becoming aware that seasons change, light moves and so do you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Your beauty might be bright colourful flowers, heavenly scented roses, a brilliant sunset, the twinkling stars, the gentle drone of the bees buzzing as they collect pollen or just gazing into your pet’s eyes. Jot down your observations in your journal, including how you felt while doing this.
  9. Create your own beautiful world.  Our own environment reflects our inner nature and allows for dreams and ideals. Take time to look at what you have around you both at home and work. Does it inspire or is it dire? Love and respect your spaces (both home and work) through building a space that inspires you! This may be through uplifting colour choices, furniture that enlivens your spirit, pottery or photographs, indoor plants and maybe even just clearing your desk at the end of the day.
  10. Love yourself. Take time to be truly grateful for who you are and all that you can be. There is no vanity in this one. Acknowledge yourself and choose to praise yourself for all your achievements, large and small. This is actively choosing praise over criticism, seeing yourself as a good person and trying to do your best in a given moment. If you catch negative self-talk creeping in, greet it, say thank you for coming (as a reminder of what was) and choose a positive reply to those unwanted words. By choosing positivity, confidence and self-support you are creating a form of self-love that will help to heal and transform your life.

Remember each day is a new opportunity to explore your creativity and celebrate life. Learning to love your own uniqueness makes you lovable and unforgettable. Being grateful for and living with this uniqueness allows each of us to learn to love ourselves more deeply.

Finding gratitude in our current world can be difficult. Many of us overanalyse emotions or are too distracted to notice what is being done for us or what we do to others. Some may feel that gratitude is like the green kale smoothie of emotions: you know it’s good for you but it’s not particularly appetising. Indeed, gratitude can sometimes feel banal, forced or even like a chore. If this happens, then we can lose its benefits.

For me, gratitude is about perspective on given situations. If I take time to stand back, look and then journal about a situation or event then I can see more clearly my reactions and emotions. I can more easily accept my part in the larger picture. I might get into gritty details but reflecting on what has occurred allows me processing time and gratitude to let go, move forward and learn from each difficult situation. Sometimes gratitude is very easy. When I dog sit I just enjoy the fun of walking, playing, giving treats for good behaviour, having cuddles on the sofa and stroking the dogs fur. She has beautiful big, brown eyes that give out unconditional love and she loves giving plenty of kisses (which is not so great after she has been rolling in muck or eating something unsavoury!).

Author Megan C Hayes, Write Yourself Happy – The Art of Positive Journalling, says this about gratitude:

“You might like to think of practising gratitude as lifting the tablecloth of any given moment and inspecting the table legs underneath, noting the pillars that support everything you take for granted. What do you see when you lift the tablecloth?” – Megan C Hayes

Time to Have a Go!

This month have a go with the attached Gratitude with Attitude.  Each day, take time to journal all the reasons why you are grateful for the activity, person, event, walk, etc.

9. Our Emotional Content – Part 2

In my previous blog post on our Emotional Content I explained a journaling exercise. The journaling exercise was asking us to write about an event, each day, writing in detail using all our senses to describe the moment. The week’s prompt included an important reminder that, as triggers to emotional memory, smell and taste are as important as sight and hearing. The writing exercise was “express your feelings about this event and how your sensory inputs and interactions with others made you feel”.  This mindful journaling exercise occurred whilst I was preparing for a College inspection, working through some exams and completing external studies. Needless to say, I didn’t do each day but completed them on days where things felt they’d gone awry.

One day I realised I had written four pages and was even more unsettled by the experience. I still wasn’t able to identify the true emotions I was experiencing. I went on a hunt to try to find something to help.

Many theorists have suggested journaling to express views and sort out emotional baggage, including Carl Jung, James W Pennebaker and Julia Cameron. But I wanted more information on the emotions themselves and how to deal with them. Again, there are so many theorists, from Darwin and James-Lange to Cannon-Bard, Schachter-Singer and Fredickson.

So much out there; but I just wanted a simple list of emotions to at least identify what I was experiencing. One book that helped was The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin which has pages of positive and negative emotions to choose from. Then I found the following lovely table from Positive Psychology (https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-wheel/)  that explains the joining of the emotions and how they work:

Love Joy + Trust Remorse Sadness + Disgust
Guilt Joy + Fear Envy Sadness + Anger
Delight Joy + Surprise Pessimism Sadness+Anticipation
Submission Trust + Fear Contempt Disgust + Anger
Curiosity Trust + Surprise Cynicism Disgust +Anticipation
Sentimentality Trust + Sadness Morbidness Disgust + Joy
Awe Fear + Surprise Aggression Anger + Anticipation
Despair Fear + Sadness Pride Anger + Joy
Shame Fear + Disgust Dominance Anger + Trust
Disappointment Surprise+Sadness Optimism Anticipation + Joy
Unbelief Surprise+Disgust Hope Anticipation +Trust
Outrage Surprise + Anger Anxiety Anticipation + Fear

This chart helped me understand the joining of primary emotions and helped me identify what I was feeling in certain situations. It allowed me to consider how I was expressing emotion and my actions based on different stimuli. It explained some of my reactions and helped me reflect on my behaviours (positive and negative). This is an ongoing process and I am still learning which are my triggers and what can be left behind. I’m still learning how to create good boundaries and how to move forward with acceptance.

By continuing with journaling I have been able to share my experiences in a stable and more balanced way with my husband. I have allowed myself to create the changes I need to self-improve and I feel I am empowered to share my emotions in a much more constructive way. It is a wonderful way to reflect and analyse my own emotional patterns to help meet any changes or challenges that are occurring.

Maintaining a mindfulness practice allows me to attend to my emotions, be curious and patient with them, learn to accept we have different emotions and change my emotions to other emotions.

Time to Have a Go!

Using your Journal (using pen and paper) take as much time as needed to look at a relationship issue. This could be related to work, a personal relationship, family, children, or anything else.  

Remember your journal entries are private and the journal is a way to express your own feelings and problems without hurting anyone involved. As you write, you may be able to see the situation more objectively (after letting off steam), thus allowing you to pinpoint more accurately the reasons behind your anger, sadness, frustration, etc. When you are ready to have a conversation with the people involved you may be able to resolve them more easily.

Really take time to notice words you are using. Sometimes they are markers to deeper feelings within your subconscious. Highlight or underline words and feelings that seem to recur. Try to understand why these things are important to you.

7. Reflection on Emotional Issues

‘The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.’ Will Smith

We can approach our emotions or emotional states from a position of power or a position of powerlessness.

Emotional issues are among the most painful of all for us to deal with as they can create feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, fear, guilt and self-loathing. By learning ways to deal with our fearful emotions we are freed from a cycle. As the saying goes: we fear what we don’t know or understand.

By taking a proactive approach to reflection we grow our awareness of our selves. This helps us to integrate new learning when situations recur and develops our emotional intelligence. As a person, if we can accept all our aspects of self (the good, the bad and everything in between) we are able to move forward with respect for our self.

We all have many parts that need to be integrated, accepted and loved for what they teach us. If we can move to a state of observation without judgment on ourselves, we can pass these observations and non-judgment to those around us. As we grow and change, we develop more flexible responses to triggers and negative patterns. To be whole we must work on our strengths but never ignore our weaknesses. It’s our weaknesses that teach us the most as they highlight what we need to work on in order to move forward.

Time to Have a go!

Emotions will always crop up so allow the emotion to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions throughout your day and say to yourself: ‘joy’, ‘anger’, ‘frustration’, ‘happy’. Acceptance of the presence of your emotions allows you to re-wire your brain and develop your response to a situation.

Once you have practiced naming emotions throughout your day, for a week, try and extend the exercise.

You may wish to look at an area of weakness or fragility to work on for building understanding and acceptance of the emotions involved.

You may wish to look at an area of strength to work on for building understanding and acceptance of the emotions involved.