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Gratitude’s Perspective-Shifting Gifts

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melodie Beattie

There is an increasing amount written about the immense value to our health of feeling and expressing gratitude on a regular basis. This article by Dr David Hamilton is particularly well worth a read.

Although its health benefits (both physical and mental) are indisputable I appreciate being thankful on demand can feel like a big ask at times.

I am sure we all have had scenarios in life when an expression of gratitude has been demanded of us and despite it being a very important cultivation and lesson, it doesn’t compare to that more authentic feeling generated from within.

This is what overtook me last Tuesday during a routine visit to the haematologist – an undeniable and unshakeable awareness of how much I really had to be thankful for. It wasn’t something I was told to feel from a parent, or priest or practitioner, it was truly intrinsic.

From that seat in an overpacked NHS clinic I witnessed – as I have many times –  the remarkable care that the staff show all their patients. These incredible professionals work tirelessly and often thanklessly to help us towards better health. They certainly deserve our immense gratitude.

But even more poignant was a very real sense of appreciation for life itself. A renewed awareness of how precious it is.

Surrounded by fellow patients at different stages of life and illness – there was a common bond. Everyone connected by a hope that we will get better and be able to live life to the full. It was this magical combination of support and positive belief that gave rise to my all-encompassing gratitude.

Your challenges may well not come in the guise of illness – something else may be limiting you from feeling happy in your skin and at ease with yourself. Perhaps a relationship problem, a family concern or work related stress.

From my experience it seems it is only when we choose to shift our focus that the landscape – or at least view of it – will change.

When we become overwhelmed in one area of our life it is as though we can only see out of that one window. Our building is bound to have many other windows but our current circumstances limit us from looking elsewhere. In moments like this it is useful to acknowledge where we are at, only then can we take back control of the situation.

Next, we will often need to ask for help and reaching out isn’t always that easy. But whether you seek professional guidance or counsel from friends, getting some form of support really is vital.

The final step is to act. Just one small move brings you closer to a different perspective – and this act is as simple as practicing gratitude.

Like the quote above highlights, this not only brings you back to the present but also offers hope for the future.

I am not suggesting that this is always easy task – sometimes it just feels like the odds have been stacked against you for a while, but as I experienced this week in clinic, when any kind of gratitude is harnessed, it can be enough to transform how we approach our challenges and a new opportunity for healing.

Perhaps it’s by cultivating gratitude when life is going well that we find it easier to access and benefit from in our most challenging times.

So, my suggestion to you is to start and finish your day by expressing three things/people you are grateful for. Noting them in a journal or on your phone might help. By committing to this for 30 days you will be supporting your health in a whole new way.

None of us know what tomorrow may bring but you can be sure that learning to be grateful can underpin a healthier and happier vision.


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