This morning I started my working day with a meditation focused on gratitude. It was a really positive start to my day, ten minutes focused on what is good in my life and there’s quite a lot. Human beings tend to have a negativity bias and I am no exception. For example, it can be easier for me to notice that I have plantar fasciitis and focus on what I can’t do because of that, than look at the rest of my body and notice how well it is working. Or notice how much further I can walk now than I could several months ago.
This year has been so full of things we can’t do anymore, things cancelled at the last minute, family we are separated from by rules and quarantines. In some ways, it has made me realise how much I took for granted before. I am a New Zealander who has made her home in Bristol for more than a decade now. Yet I always assumed I could fly home whenever I wanted, or needed, to do so. I did know I was lucky and that everyone was not as privileged but at the same time I really took it for granted that it would always be that way. I couldn’t, or didn’t, ever imagine what it would feel like for that to be taken away from me, and so suddenly. Yet here we are, more than six months on and that is how things are. Most days I rise above it, some days are more difficult.
Today’s meditation focused me on the good stuff: how good my overall health is, the food on the table each night, the things that are going well with my work, the writing I have done, my garden, new friends. This stuff is always there in the background, we just don’t always take the time to notice it and be thankful for what we have got. Perhaps circumstances feel overwhelming and the good stuff gets drowned out by the difficult things we are facing. But taking the time to look inside and really see and cherish what is good in our lives is always a helpful thing to do because it is that stuff that helps us get through the difficult times. And as everyone keeps saying, these are difficult times.
A gratitude journal can be a really wonderful resource at times like this. It turns our minds to what is good in the present moment by taking five to ten minutes each evening to focus on the good thing in the day. Over time, it also provides us with a written record so when we look back over a difficult period, we can see all the good things we still had in our lives.
Here’s one way to do it:
Every day write down three good things which you noticed or that happened today. Just a word, phrase or sentence is enough. They can be anything from the mundane to the sublime – it’s really about paying attention to things that have enhanced your daily experience in some way. As you write these things down, try to let yourself feel them in your body. If your good thing was the sound of some birds at dawn, focus for a moment on what was good about it, how it made you feel to hear them. Bring that feeling into the moment in which you write about it. You might want to note that down too.
At the end of the week, read back over your gratitude entries and then write a feedback entry in your journal beginning: When I read my gratitude lists for this week I notice…….
Adding in a time to reflect at the end of the week, is a part of the process that I highly recommend because it gives you perspective. You may notice things over a week or a month that are not immediately obvious in the midst of things. You may see patterns, that particular types of things make you feel better or help you cope with difficult situations. Becoming aware in this way means you can turn towards those things, appreciate what they bring to your life, do them more often if they are an activity or take the time to appreciate them in the moment if they are something a little more abstract (like a sunset).