Flourishing

Cultivating Gratitude

Our Wellbeing Practitioner, Sam, shares some thoughts with us on Cultivating Gratitude…

At the time of writing, it’s two weeks since my boiler broke down.  I write this huddled in front of a small fan heater, wrapped in a blanket.  It’s been a challenging couple of weeks for my family and with no date yet for the new boiler being fitted we’re starting to struggle with getting out of bed in the morning to a cold room and boiling kettles to wash ourselves and the dishes.   

And then our thoughts turn to the people struggling with fuel poverty, who know this isn’t a temporary situation.  The people for whom this is just going to get worse as fuel prices rise.  We think of the Ukranian people huddled in basements in -10°C where the lack of heat and hot water is just an insult on top of the horror of knowing they might lose their homes, their country or their lives. 

This isn’t to say that when bad things happen to us we don’t have the right to complain or to feel sorry for ourselves.  It’s easy and trite to say that there’s always someone worse off.  Of course there is, but our own experience and our own feelings are still valid. The problem comes when we focus so much on the bad stuff, we forget to notice the good. 

Bad stuff happens to everyone.  This is a fact of life.  Psychologists have recognized that an important part of resilience in life is to acknowledge this fact.  Why me?  Why not me?  Once we accept this we can start to choose to see that life is full of ups and downs, good and bad.  Acknowledging the good and accepting the bad helps people survive the rollercoaster we call life. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Resilience isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we can learn.  Gratitude for the good stuff in our lives needs to be cultivated.  To learn gratitude we must nurture it, tend to it, and put in some effort.  With practice it becomes easier.  Sometimes looking for the good in a situation may seem like a Herculean task.  The psychologist Lucy Hone, who has researched resilience for many years, describes how she found gratitude for the fact her twelve year old daughter was killed instantly in a car accident, as opposed to suffering a long drawn out illness.  That blew my mind.  When faced with the absolute worst things in life, people choose hope; they choose to live. 

By acknowledging the people worse off than me, I feel gratitude for my privilege that I can afford a new boiler and that I can afford the fuel to run it.  I’m grateful that I’ve had this experience to highlight to me and my family that privilege, when normally it’s something we take for granted.  And when the new boiler is working we will feel gratitude for an end to this experience when we wash our hands in warm water and wake up in warm bedrooms.  I’m looking forward to experiencing that gratitude and I hope it won’t be too long because right now, I’m very cold. 

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