‘Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.’
August has arrived and with it a feeling of freedom from the normal day to day activities for most people. School holidays have arrived, the stress of examinations has dissipated and there is a bit more breathing space with that feeling of summer and longer lingering days: time to watch the world go by. Many people are thankful for this summer holiday season. So what are the benefits of being thankful, in other words, showing our gratitude. Research shows that when people show their gratitude towards other people, the following effects can take place:
- Help you make new friends.
- Improve your physical health.
- Improve your psychological health.
- Enhance empathy and reduce aggression.
- Improve your sleep.
- Enhance your self-esteem.
Increase mental strength/resilience.
So what would the effect be if we just spent some time being thankful to not only people but for other aspects of life such as having time and space, having good health, having beautiful Sussex surroundings to live in and so on? Why not try a few of the suggestions listed below and see what the effect is on you and on others. Try it and then look for signs of the above on you and others.
Gratitude Jar or Box
Find a jar or box and decorate it with ribbon, glitter, stickers or anything cheerful. Think of at least three things throughout your day that you are grateful for. This can be as simple as listening to bird song or as grand as having tea at The Grand. Write down what you are happy for, on little slips of paper (brightly coloured if possible) and fill your jar over time. Do this about three times a week.
Over time, you will find that you have a jar full of a myriad of reasons to be thankful for what you have and enjoy the life you are living. If you are ever feeling especially down and need a reminder of what is good in your life, take a few notes out of the jar to remind yourself and savour the good things.
The same activity could be carried out by writing on colourful petal shaped leaves and making a flower out of the pieces and then putting the flowers on display. This can really brighten up the day. Or make a collage or anything else that is cheerful to look at each day.
All of the above could be carried out by writing things about a person you are grateful to have in your life and seeing what the impact is when you present it to them. What a lovely gift to give someone.
Gratitude Garden or Park
The gratitude garden activity is intended for young children, especially on rainy days when they may feel fed up but adults may want to have some fun with it too. Take these steps to journey to your imaginary gratitude garden or find a park with lots of trees and make your way through it. Stand in the park looking directly at a beautiful tree that is in the distance, in the gratitude park. Explain to children that you want to go there but you have to get through difficult terrain before you reach it.
The first stop is at the Frowny Forest (children could mimic you as you frown, cross your arms, and hunch over. There is a lot of wind in the Frowny Forest so you could mimic being tossed about by the wind as if you are trying to fight it). The only way to leave the Frowny Forest is to feel happy again. Ask the children to shout out things they are grateful for, anything small such as being able to have a lie-in can be included. Once they have named a few things, mimic great relief, with a big smile.Next, enter the Sad Swamp. Hunch over again, swing your arms down low and walk in big, heavy steps as if walking through treacle. Again, ask the children to shout out things they are grateful for so that you can all leave the Sad Swamp.Next you arrive at the Mad Mud. Pretend to walk through the mud with great effort, making angry faces. Again, ask the children to shout out things they are grateful for, so you can all feel happy again.
You could make up other names for other areas in the park depending on the mood the children are experiencing such as Grumpy Greenery or Fed-up Fountain.
Finally, you all arrive at the tree in the Gratitude Garden and hopefully some of the tension built up in the children will have dissipated, some fun and laughter will have been shared and everyone will have been reminded that negative feelings are momentary and do not have to last forever.
Wishing you all a really happy and relaxed August and thank you for reading these articles and especially to everyone who takes the time to tell me how valuable they find them. I appreciate that very much.
‘Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize
they were the big things.’ —Robert Brault