This post isn’t relating to chronic illness per se. It applies to anyone. And it is something that I would say is one of the most effective things I have ever done to improve my daily levels of happiness. It’s so small, so simple, some might even say a little cheesy, but oh so effective.
What is it?
The Chambers Concise Dictionary describes being grateful as:
thankful; expressing gratitude; having a due sense of benefits one has received; causing pleasure
It’s perhaps no surprise therefore that the act of being grateful, leads to increased happiness. For how can we reach happiness if we don’t take stock of our lot and evaluate the benefits we have received.
Another way to think about it… Imagine a shopkeeper. Lets imagine he sells shoes (the best kind of shopkeeper). This shopkeeper has opened a shoe shop because it is his life long dream, and because he wants to work for himself, decide his own hours and spend more time with his family, he also wants to see more of the fruits of his hard work.
The shopkeeper has worked out that his target is to sell 100 pairs of shoes per month. In doing so he will have enough to cover his business costs, his personal outgoings and enough money for his family to live a happy and fulfilled life with all of the things that they need and some of the additional things that they want. Great!
So the shopkeeper goes about setting up his offer, opening his shop every day and selling to his customers. But he soon becomes tired and stressed. His customers always seem to want more, longer opening hours, faster service, different styles. His family complains that they don’t see him anymore, that he spends too much time at his shop, and that when he is home he’s stressed and grumpy.
The shopkeeper is miserable. He constantly feels pressure to sell more shoes and to keep up with everyones demands and he feels like his life long dream to have his own shoe shop is falling apart at the seams.
Failure to take stock can lead to us bypassing our happy
But the shop keeper has forgotten to take stock. He has forgotten why he opened the shoe shop, and what he wanted to achieve. By constantly striving for the next goal and the next without stopping to think, he has lost sight of where his happiness lies.
Had the shopkeeper had more of a ‘due sense of the benefits he had received’, he would have realised that 1 year ago he was selling 100 pairs of shoes a month. That 1 year ago he was leaving work at 5.30 each day and spending evenings and weekends with his family. He would have realised that 1 year ago he achieved his dream, he was happy.
However, without taking stock the shopkeeper has continued to strive for growth when the opportunity has presented itself, he has created an unhappy situation where he no longer knows what happiness looks like for him and doesn’t have time to stop and find out if he’s reached it.
How many times have you heard yourself or someone else say, that if they only had this one thing…
…one opportunity, one experience etc. in their life they’d be happy. Only to watch them barely stop to absorb it when they do finally get it. Barely absorb the experience when it finally presents itself, because mentally they have started to move on to the next thing they need, want, desire, the next thing that will make them happy, in the future.
And there is nothing wrong with wanting more, there is nothing wrong with stretching yourself to grow and expand, to want more from your life, sometimes it’s good to want more! But don’t short change yourself the opportunity to be happy now, by taking stock of what you already have, because whilst plans for the future are great, happiness can’t exist in the future, it can only exist now.
When you suffer with a disability of chronic illness there are times when grateful is a feeling that seems a long way away, but trust in my experience when I say that these are the times when we need gratefulness most of all. Because a reminder of the wonderful we have already, is the best cure for the sadness of witnessing what we don’t.
Be grateful daily & creatively
Be grateful every day, make it a habit. I do my grateful thinking when walking. Walking the dog, walking from the car to work. walking equals time to reflect and be grateful.
And being grateful to me doesn’t always look like the obvious. Being grateful for the things we have is important and is the best way to start countering feelings driven by the thoughts of things we don’t have, or have lost. However, I find that I am consciously grateful for those things anyway a lot of the time.
The things that make the most difference often to my moment to moment feelings of joy are the smaller, more creative little gratefulnesses. Like the fact that nature is so beautiful and freely accessible to me at any time, to enjoy and absorb.
Like the fact that the sun hitting my skin on a warm sunny day feels so incredible, like a free session in a health spa, just from stepping outside.
I appreciate you are probably reaching for a sick bucket right now, and I get it. I’m about to reach for mine too! Constantly happy, grateful types are really bloody annoying. No one wants to feel like a permanent member of the Brady bunch, swinging their ponytail whilst they share their gratefulness for everything and just generally being annoying and bloody happy.
But the great thing about gratefulness, is that it doesn’t have to be shared. It works just as well privately and in your head. The benefit of this being increased personal happiness, without becoming the most annoying person you know! Bonus.
3 Take away points
So here are 3 things to take away regarding gratefulness:
- When you set goals, don’t forget t take stock of how far you’ve come or when you have achieved them. Even if you then set a higher target you can still be grateful everyday for how far you’ve come now.
- Happiness exists now, not in the future. It can only be felt in the present moment. Make sure you take a few seconds every day to stop and find your happiness.
- Finally, as well as the big things, don’t forget smaller more creative gratefulnesses. For, example I am so grateful I found my amazing mugs, which I instantly bought when I saw them, because they make me smile every time I get a cup of tea (and that’s a lot of times a day), silly but true!
What makes you feel grateful every day, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…
Also come and join the growing Chronic Wellness community on Instagram – @c_wellness_uk, see you there!
PS the lovely vegan sugar free cake recipe promised is also over on Instagram, check it out you won’t regret it!