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‘ If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.’ Steve Maraboli
‘Gratitude is the smile of love.’
A deep heart-felt appreciation will give you a surprising strength and power to transform yourself and help you feel happier and more peaceful. Recent research has shown that gratitude helps us feel happier and less stressed as well as improving our physical health. It increases our resilience and ability to cope and we are more energetic. It brings a feeling of hope, love, compassion, generosity and optimism. It is also a key component in most spiritual paths. Gratitude helps us connect more with others and rewires our brain towards positive emotions. Focus on and value what you have rather than what you don’t have.
Some of the simple, small everyday elements we tend to take for granted in our life are actually the foundation of feeling thankful and increases our feelings of support and kindness towards ourselves and others. Thanksgiving (which actually means expressing gratitude) holiday in America is a time to stop work and give thanks and celebrate together in family and communities. Every time we say thank you is in fact, a form of appreciation.
It’s sometimes hard to feel appreciative if we are going through a tough time. Whenever I returned from travelling in polluted and poor countries, I tried to find a few moments every day to remember how grateful I am to be alive, to have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Of course, after a couple of months, I started taking everything for granted again. I then had to be more mindful to keep appreciating my good circumstances, even when I didn’t receive what I thought I wanted. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama say’s; ‘that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.’
Remember to be glad to hear the birds sing on a sunny day or enjoy a cool breeze on a hot day. Feel more satisfied by good food, friendships and in your work. Express gratitude to your friends, family and at work. ‘Gratitude is action out of compassion.’
Spend a little time every day counting your blessings however little you feel you have. Be grateful for everything, even the difficult times because you learn from good and bad and gain strength by overcoming adversity. Beautiful roses also have thorns!
Find a gratitude prayer that warms your heart, say thank you more, practice not being judgemental, start a gratitude journal and remember to read it when you are feeling grumpy! feel gratitude towards people who have taught you important lessons in life and have also encouraged you and maybe even have changed your life.
In Process Oriented Psychology, we also explore why we don’t feel grateful. By not ignoring or marginalising this part of us, we can transform our negativity, anger, resentment and complaining into authentic appreciation rather than just faking it! When we can’t say thank you for what we have, there are often valid reasons, either from our childhood or our current situation.
In Process Oriented therapy or counselling, we explore the deeper meaning which is stopping us feeling grateful. Just telling ourselves to be more positive isn’t really sustainable over time, though retraining our mind and emotions does bring results. Deeply delving into our ungrateful side allows us to find out what it’s for. Don’t throw things out that you don’t like, but use them in a useful way. eg. Someone who is a social activist who strongly advocates for others who are unfairly treated may feel angry about injustice. However it has enabled them to help others to form connection, community and direct action.
So gratitude is the best attitude and sometimes so is ingratitude!