Gratitude is a great tool for positive mental health
Gratitude: we know what it means in principle, but how many of us practice this on a regular basis, celebrating our wins - whether they be big or small? I sometimes pose my ‘gratitude’ question, depending on that specific person’s circumstances, and invariably I’m met with a quizzical look, the individual trying to relate to it and the issues they’ve brought into the room.
The intellect can be a formidable adversary on matters of emotions and 'states of mind’ – it evolved to be very adept at dissecting, separating, and categorising information – all certainly useful, but can be a barrier to deeper insights into one’s present condition.
Many times, when I begin working with a new client, and as the situation dictates, we discuss where they are at with their mental health. I begin by asking them to tell me a list of things they are grateful for. Oftentimes people can’t count a single blessing or acknowledge one good thing in their life; usually, their perspective doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘objective’ reality of their lives but rather their current mind-set - their perception of what is true.
I’m convinced that in life what one focuses on also grows – for good or bad.
This is usually a good place to begin. In these current challenging COVID times these small but powerful tools can be a lifeline to some.
One of the great blessings of my life was meeting and working directly with a lady called Louise Hay when I was in my late teens – in so many ways I am here doing this work because of her. She was an incredible woman who overcame many personal challenges and tragedies and was very inspirational to me. She counted her blessings just as naturally as breathing. I highly recommend her book ‘Gratitude, A Way of Life’, it has served me well over the years.
Gratitude and counting your blessings can also improve relationships. I often work with couples and families, and I’ve found that family members who found time to express gratitude for their partner or another family member not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable and ‘safe’ expressing concerns about unhealthy behaviour happening in the home.
What one focuses on also grows
I love gardening. I know that with care and focus I can help a plant grow. I’m convinced that in life what one focuses on also grows – for good or bad. So, if you focus on all the good in your life, that feeling of being thankful, will grow beyond its own original size in time and you will remember other things that you are grateful for.
That works in the opposite way too: if you don’t count your blessings, if you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, if all that you do is focus on problems, failures and worries then they also have a habit of taking root and becoming bigger than they are.
Instead, try sitting down and writing your own ‘attitude of gratitude’ list, start with three things and perhaps add another each day. Intention and how you feel is key to this. Try for one week – you may be surprised with not only what you come up with but how you feel at the end of it.
Take good care of yourselves and I’m wishing you all good mental health.
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