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Gratitude – finding this little tonic during lockdown

When it comes to uplifting yourself and also uniting people then it’s gratitude that is often found, writes client Ian Lamb.

People and professionals from all walks of life have said it, from therapists and counsellors who highly recommend it, to various mental health workers, as well as it being one of the main suggestions within the world of complementary and alternative therapy.

All appear to agree that gratitude can be a fundamental part of one’s health and wellbeing.

Even within several religious faiths such as Christianity, various branches of Paganism and Buddhism have all talked about finding gratitude and willed people to express it and of course, one does not have to be religious in order for you to find gratitude in everyday life.

Also, it’s far from it being classed as some new age superstition too because it’s been proven! Researchers have found that expressing gratitude on a regular basis in just a few weeks has the power to change the way you think. And during these difficult times where lockdown has bound us, lack of interaction has floored us and so much fear, uncertainty and grief because of Covid-19 has stunned us all, then changing the way we think by finding and expressing gratitude has, perhaps, never been more needed.  

But the obvious question is, just how does one express gratitude and especially now, given the lack of motivation that we may all be feeling?

The power really is within your hands because there’s power through the written word. So grab yourself a pen and some paper, or your laptop if that’s your preferred way of writing. You may wish to use a nice notebook and within this book it’s up to you whether you wish to express yourself through writing or even drawing. This is your gratitude list.

Now while you’re sitting down and hopefully feeling relaxed and mindful, think of all the things and the people that bring a smile to your face – what or who makes your heart melt? Be mindful of all the people you’ve recently interacted with. Perhaps you’ve received a phone call from your mum? Your dad? Your grandparents? Or your best friend?  Write this down: “I feel grateful for the phone call I received” .  

Write how it made you feel and as you’re writing it down you are automatically giving thanks for this interaction. Repeat this with as many interactions you’ve had over the last 24 hours, 48 hours or longer. Whatever springs to your mind, write it down – you can number each expression of gratitude you’re giving for each interaction, building your list as you continue to write.  

Why do you feel grateful for that text message or for that phone call? Maybe you’ve received a letter from a penpal? How’s it made you feel? Write it down. You’re expressing your gratitude as you write it down. Maybe you’re on various social media platforms and you’ve received a message from an old school friend? Or a best friend who has tagged you into a heartfelt message? Write it down. Or if you really detest writing then draw it, draw an expression that feels right for you. This is your gratitude list so make it unique to you however you choose. So long as you understand it and it’s doing its intended purpose of expressing how grateful you are because what you’re doing is putting out positive intentions.  

What have you done today? Yesterday, or as recently as you want? What’s made you smile? You may have found yourself feeling really stuck and lacking energy but you’ve made a really nice lunch for yourself or for your family, the people you live with? Or have you donated to a charitable cause? Helped a neighbour or a neighbour has helped you? Perhaps you’re one of the people clapping for our key workers? Are you a keyworker yourself? 

Express these tasks which are often accomplishments, through words or drawing such as “I’m grateful for finding the energy for getting out of bed. For making that great lunch” and “I’m grateful for the people who I made lunch for as they said thank you to me.”  Other examples could be: “I’m grateful for the NHS” or “I’m grateful for that walk I’ve just had to the shop or to the park. The fresh air, the sunshine, the exercise…”  This is your starting point within your gratitude list so write as many as you can think of. 

Perhaps you’ve finally managed to finish that book that you’ve meant to read for so long? Or maybe a stranger such as the shop assistant smiled at you and said hello, maybe asked how you are doing? 

It really doesn’t matter how big or how small it is. It’s about recognising it and expressing it. By writing it down (or drawing it) you are creating positive energy which has the power to create that positive energy within yourself, your mind. You can be creative with it, maybe use different coloured pens so each expression looks colourful. However you do it, know that you’re giving thanks to the people you care about and you’re acknowledging what you have accomplished during these hard times.  

Then tomorrow, maybe at the end of the day when the sun sets, have a think about this last day and aim to write at least three things you feel grateful for. What’s happened? Who have you connected with? Maybe you’ve sat and enjoyed watching your favourite TV programme or film? “I feel grateful for being able to sit and relax and enjoy my TV programme or film.”  Challenge yourself by trying to keep your gratitude list for a full month by writing as many things and people that have made you feel grateful. 

Don’t worry about it too much if you miss a day because on the next day when you do continue it, you may find you’ve got even more things to add to it. When I do my gratitude list, I write the date and then number of each thing I feel grateful for. Some days I can write between 3-5 things while other days I’m writing 10+ ways and means of how and why I feel grateful. It does help! 

And because I feel keen to keep adding to it, I’ll do something different or find myself talking to someone I haven’t in a while so this adds not only to my gratitude list but also adds to happy memories and positive thoughts.  It feels nice seeing so many different people that I have now added to my gratitude list and the more I write, the bigger I’m finding the list is getting because I am actively searching for things to feel grateful for. 

You may also find that keeping a gratitude list can inspire you to create more goals for yourself and then when you find yourself accomplishing those goals whether it’s a home study course, pushing yourself to get out of bed and get going or maybe even something to do with arts and crafts.  Whatever it may be, these are goals that you can work towards and by writing them down in your grateful list, you’re not only acknowledging yet more accomplishments but you’re also continuing to express positive statements. 

Of course, you are bound to experience bad days and on those dark days where the world really does feel like it’s ending I’ve found myself reading what I’ve written over the last few days, weeks or even months. This is a great way to reflect.  

Hopefully, you’ll put together a list of great things that make you smile, that create great memories, the people you have met be it family, friends or even kind strangers who may just simply say “thank you” to you.  By reflecting upon your list of gratitude, you’ll see just how lucky you are. How many people really do care about you.  Hopefully that will curb that dark cloud from getting thicker, by throwing you some light so that despite the lockdown and the tough times we’re having, even now, there is a lot still to be grateful for. 

Good luck x 

Posted on: 18th May 2020