The power of gratitude

In Summary

•One of the most powerful techniques is gratitude.

Gratitude is a powerful tool.
Gratitude is a powerful tool.
Image: FILE

We have an idyllic vision. Each and everyone of us. A life without coronavirus. We see ourselves in the not so distant future being able to walk the streets freely, socialise with our friends and family, go out for dinner, amble around the shops, no longer in self-isolation or bound by curfews or lockdowns, and with no fear of catching the virus.

We tell ourselves that on a certain day, at a certain hour we will get our social and democratic freedoms back and then we can start living again. We can go back to our normal lives.

But wait. When is this going to happen? Tomorrow? Next month? Three months down the line?

The truth is no one knows. What we do know is that this virus is not just going to go away. And in the meantime, we wait. And in that waiting we must learn to live life now, in this present moment. However temporary this new way of life may be, we need to find a way to live it without it depleting or destroying our physical and mental health.

One of the most powerful techniques to do this is that of gratitude.

It may not sound like much, but research shows that a daily gratitude practice is hugely beneficial for us, helping reduce stress and depression, encouraging better sleep and physical immunity and is linked to higher levels of optimism and lower levels of anxiety. Anxiety is the fear of the future and many people are feeling this at the moment because we can’t change or control the situation. By focusing on the positive aspects and what we are grateful for, we remain calm and centred. By operating from a space of gratitude, we are able to move away from a victim mentality to a place of personal power and strength. In fact, as we practice gratitude, we find that we become more grateful for what we have, rather than resentful about what we don’t have.

Gratitude really nourishes the spirit. It cultivates happiness. And in turn, it heals your mind and body. That’s its power.

A good technique is to write a Gratitude Journal at the end of each day before you fall asleep. As you record the things you are grateful for, you may be surprised by what is important to you. I’ve done this exercise with hundreds of people, and the things they write down are always in a similar vein. And it’s not the car, the house, the money and so on.  It’s the small things that make a big difference. Sometimes it can be as simple as a cup of tea after a long day, or the warmth of sunshine first thing in the morning or the (virtual) company and listening ear of a close friend when things are not going so well.

Start by sitting quietly for a moment and bring your focus to your breath. Then bring your attention to your heart centre. Think of something that you are grateful for today – big or small – it doesn’t matter. Write this down mindfully and with gratitude in your heart. Do this again two more times. Then, spend time reflecting on the three things that you have written that you are grateful for.

If you want to do this with your family, start a Gratitude Jar.

Keep a large jar in a prominent place – perhaps on the dining room table. At the end of each day, every person in your household writes down one thing they have been grateful for about that day on a piece of card. Each person then puts their card in the jar. At the end of the week, sit down as a family, open the jar and share everything that you have been grateful for with each other. Make sure everyone gets a chance to share their gratitude cards and talk a little about them. Take your time. No need to rush. This cultivates a space of positivity and presence, a place of connection and compassion.

Ending each day on a note of gratitude is such a positive way to finish the day and will allow all of us to feel less anxious about the world and stay grounded during this global pandemic. We have so much to be grateful for in life, even when life throws us these huge curveballs. We just need to remind ourselves sometimes.

Shalini Bhalla-Lucas is an accredited mindfulness teacher, international mental health campaigner and award-winning author of three books.

Connect with Shalini on Facebook/Instagram @justjhoom or www.justjhoom.co.uk