The Benefit of Long Term Gratitude Practice

On Wednesday, after the ‘incident’, I was wrecked. I felt hopeless and very sorry for myself. 

I woke on Thursday after a very bad sleep (if you can call your eyes open most of the night sleep) nauseous. I really didn’t want to go to work and I really didn’t want the full, very full, day that lay ahead. With our Creative and Performing Arts Showcase I knew it would be a late night and long day. Well over fifteen hours at work. 

The nausea passed by afternoon. The sadness dissipated. The anger subsided. 

After being powerless as a child, I vowed I would never feel that way again. Conflict and violence always trigger those feelings in me. It’s logical. And it’s okay. 

One student came up to me and we joked about a hit list, and I laughed. The love that does exist at my school really is something to be grateful for. 

And that brings me to the point. 

I have intermittently practiced a gratitude journal for the last eight or so years. Every time I start to feel myself sliding into a depressive state, I start up my practice. And every time, no fail, I move through it quickly. 

I have encouraged many students, many friends and many adults to engage in this practice. It works. 

By Thursday night, I was good. Exhausted. But good. Friday, with my protector Max in tow, I was normal. Max has a tendency to bring the love out of people. 

Max is my dog. He is two and a half years old. His mum was a Maltese Shih Tzu and his dad was a mini Poodle. Max is a beautiful combination of the best of all breeds. He practices love every day, and even though he is a small dog, his spirit belies his size. He has been coming to work with me since he was eight weeks old. Some of the kids have known him his whole life. And most of them adore him, and he them. 

When he is around, the best in the kids comes out, and the best in all of us (for the most part). I am grateful for his love. And his spirit. 

I practice gratitude almost every day, when necessary I write it down but more often these days, it’s embodied in my thoughts and actions. 

Once upon a time, the potential of Wednesday would have incapacitated me for days, possibly weeks. These days, after long term gratitude practice, not even thirty six hours. Phenomenal progress. 

The way it works is straightforward. Every night before going to sleep you list at least three things from the day that you are grateful for. The list does grow as your mindset changes. Over a few days your spirit starts to lift as you see and acknowledge more to be grateful for. 

And it is okay to have a bad day and spit fire and brimstone. Give yourself permission to feel the bad. But then, make the conscious choice to move forward again, in gratitude. 

The practice prescribed in my counselling course was to write the bad from the day for ten minutes and then focus on the good. Releasing the bad before acknowledging the good gives the mind the open space to move forward. Daily practice, especially through difficult times, can be life changing. Daily practice through good times, brings peace and happiness. A still happiness that permeates every fibre of your being. 

And that allows faster return to that state after trauma. 

If you don’t already practice gratitude, give it a try. See what changes manifest in your life. 

A huge thank you to all of those people that became my gratitude list whilst I needed to be fire and brimstone. 

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