A few years ago I’d started to write down a few things every day that I was grateful for. The idea is to write down at least three as a daily habit. This was in response to finding the Action for Happiness website, printing up their ‘Ten Keys to Happier Living’ poster to stick on my fridge, and gradually trying to incorporate some of these ideas into my daily routine.
I’d read elsewhere about the importance of gratitude, but I read so much that I can’t now recall where I’d originally seen the idea of keeping a gratitude journal, just that it was an idea that seemed to keep coming up repeatedly in my reading at that time. An American psychologist, Martin Seligman, conducted a study in gratitude, the essential essence of his finding being that grateful people are happier. You can read about it in a book co-authored by my partner, This Book Has Feelings, if you’d like to find out more.
‘Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources. So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.’
Action for Happiness Website
I was sitting in the local leisure centre waiting for my children to finish their swimming lesson when I wrote my first small list of things I was grateful for. I remember seeing a toddler in a red and white striped bathing suit enjoying the water. At that moment, my mood was lifted by the sight of the joy being experienced by a little girl I didn’t know. So that was one of my first entries, one of the first things I wrote down that I was thankful for.
As I went on, I found that some days I had to stop myself writing pages and pages of things I was grateful for. Other days I struggled to find one or two beyond being alive, my family and having a roof over my head.
I don’t recall how long I continued for, but I know that when I had stopped writing down what I was grateful for as a daily habit, I would often find myself doing so mentally if I discovered I was in a particularly sad mood and it helped.
Several months ago I found myself suffering from anxiety, with a feeling that I was going to slip into depression. I’ve gradually managed to lift myself out of this with the help of commercially available CBD oil which seemed to combat the physical effects of the anxiety immediately. Now I want to do something to improve my feelings of happiness and wellbeing again so I can continue on an upward trajectory. Again, I have printed out the Action for Happiness keys, and they are part of a group of techniques I am going to try and then record on this blog.
I’m essentially running my own study on my own happiness and recording it here in case, one day, it helps someone else in a similar situation.
Last night I began my first list in a long time of things I am grateful for:
- Spending the day in Bournemouth with my family.
- Buying new music that I can play in the car, and some magazines to help me think about how I want to decorate my home this year. As a general rule I don’t buy magazines so these were a treat for me.
- For having my own home to decorate, plan for and look after. I have been homeless in the past so that hasn’t always been true for me. The amount of work I feel I need to do in the house and garden is overwhelming me, but I felt better when I realised that I have a secure roof over my head and an exciting and creative challenge in front of me and that actually, I love and appreciate my house.
- That I have more options than most people about how I spend my time and what I do.
The effect was immediate. Instantly I realised that although there had been a couple of moments in the day that I had found frustrating and unfair, the day in general had been wonderful and I was lucky to have had that day and done those things with the people I love. The stress of fixing a house that I have disengaged from turned into a creative opportunity. The indecision about some choices I need to make and stress that has caused me turned around into me realising that I’m lucky I have choices.
I think this works well, and is definitely worth a try for an extended period of time.