Gratitude, thanks, paying forward, positive relationships, happiness

Just as I was leaving my office last night, I discovered THE most beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting beside my door awaiting me.
I was so taken back by the thoughtfulness of whomever had arranged this lovely gift, and when I opened the card and read that it was from my clients who participated in our 13-month Group Therapy for Women, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for them, and for the work that I have the privilege to do as a psychotherapist on a daily basis.

 

Both I, and the members of this group, felt that we’d come to a natural end to the sessions over the previous month, and last Wednesday was our final one. These wonderful women decided that they wanted me to know that they were thinking of me on the first Wednesday that we didn’t meet, and the action they took to show me that also reinforced what had been said the week before: that our work together over those many months had been very meaningful to each of them.

But, as I’ve said to them many times, it’d been equally meaningful to me both as their therapist, and as a human being. We all felt grateful for one another, indeed.

So, what I’m writing about today is gratitude, and its ability to help us maintain a wider perspective of our lives, especially when life is particularly challenging and, even when it feels downright disheartening.

Psychologist Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage” and “Before Happiness”, and who is at the forefront of a relatively new movement in the field known as “positive psychology”, presents research data that supports the idea that taking just a few minutes each day to write down 3 things that you’re grateful for that day for a period of 21 days can actually change the way you view the world, and your life, in particular.

In other words, rather than just focusing on the negative aspects of your life, research suggests that over this period of time, you’ll begin to notice more of the positive ones. (The most important part of this exercise is that you need to identify 3 uniquely positive things for each day; they can’t be the same day after day, for example, “grateful for your good health”.

Instead, your list of 3 needs to be different each day, and in this way, the mind is ‘forced’ to seek out the positive aspects of the day that might’ve been casually overlooked due to a narrow, or habitual, focus on what’s wrong with your day.)

He argues that the purpose of this exercise is not to ignore or minimize the hardships one might be experiencing but, rather, it’s to bring a more balanced view of one’s life into perspective.

In doing so, we can avoid ‘Eeyore” syndrome, that is, a feeling that all is bleak (and it’ll likely remain that way), and will be able to see with greater clarity the things that perhaps need to change in our lives but also, and more importantly, as Achor suggests, we can see what exists that we can truly feel grateful for.

In the end, maybe a successful and happy life might be as simple as adopting an attitude of gratitude.

So, take the challenge, and see for yourself if you feel more positive about your life after 21 days of looking on the bright(er) side!

by SUZANNE ST. JOHN SMITH