Noticing and taking the time to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for boosts happiness so I’ve spent time in lock down recording what I’m grateful for each day.
It’s been an interesting and valuable exercise and one I think I particularly needed to do. For reasons that go a long way back, I’ve always spent a lot of time comparing myself to others. I never came out on top. Even if, by some miracle, I was ahead by whatever measure I was using at that moment, I managed to make sure I’d lose. I’d never achieved enough, worked hard enough, gone fast enough or I was mean for making the comparison in the first place.
I’ve worked hard over recent years to stop this incredibly unrewarding process. Mostly I notice it now and can stop it or give myself a few words of reassurance.
Lock down has also helped. Not going out and about, there’s not really anyone to compare myself with. Cocooned in my home with people I love, the competitive pressure has eased. I’ve had space to really turn my attention to what I’m grateful for.
According to Yale professor, Laurie Santos, gratitude is the quality of being thankful and a tendency to show appreciation for what one has. There’s strong evidence that focusing attention on things we’re grateful for boosts happiness compared to thinking of either neutral events or hassles. We also feel physically better and will do more exercise.
I started my gratitude journal by saying out loud “I’m bound to forget some days and that’s okay.” A little forgiveness at the outset stopped the stress rising when my consistency lapsed. My entries have been everything from appreciating the good behaviour of my dogs on a walk (by no means a given) to being able to continue working as normal throughout the lockdown.
But has it worked? Broadly, yes. I’ve done it pretty regularly, even if at different times of the day. I’ve noticed I’ve often thought of doing my journal when my stress levels have increased so instead of getting more wound up, I’ve relaxed and felt more positive. I’ve also done a lot more exercise. You could argue that’s down to having more time in lock down but I mostly work from home anyway so there’s been little change on that front for me.
Looking beyond myself, I’ve said thank you to those around me more. This week, I needed my teenage daughter to be ready at a specific time to fit in with my plans. She was. I know there’s an argument she should have been, but it was earlier than she wanted and she did it with no fuss. Her face showed she appreciated her effort being acknowledged.
Saying thank you to people around you makes good sense in the office too. People who are thanked tend to work harder. But with everything, you need to mean it. It’s easy to spot if the act of gratitude is no more than lip service.
Put some time aside to reflect on everything your grateful for and see the impact it has on you. Then make an effort to thank those around you and the people you work with. From my personal experience I’d say it’s definitely worth it.