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Learning to be grateful does you good

calendar03 July 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Learning to be grateful does you good

We’re often told to count our blessings, but what if we took that literally?

What if we made lists of things we’re grateful for and actually counted them? Would it make a difference? 

Well, a lot of studies have looked into it. Scientists found that counting your blessings can help with a lot of things. It’s been found to help people sleep better, improve their empathy and mental health, and even strengthen relationships with their friends and loved ones.

So I got my notebook and started writing things down in whatever order they came into my head. I found it easier to do it this way and pick some of the best ones to think about later. I started off simple: my family, my fiancée, my home and things that keep me alive. And then on to more and more abstract and specific things. For example, hope (in spite of it all), acts of random kindness, lost things found, people who are amazing at niche crafts, the feeling of passing clouds and the continued incompetence of robots are all parts of later lists. I did it for a while and, strange as it seemed, there were a lot of ways it definitely helped.

It helped me discover the things I’m actually grateful for.

‘The internet’ and ‘sneezing’ are both on my list but there are several question marks around that first one. Because I am far more grateful for sneezes than I am for the internet. I don’t know whether that says more about the quality of discourse in my newsfeed or if it's just the fact that my hayfever makes sneezing a normal part of my day, this time of year, but it’s true.

There are a lot of things we do to give ourselves a little bump of happiness that don’t make us very happy or grateful, in the long run. Most of the time I don’t enjoy scrolling through the internet on social media. It’s just, ‘something to do’. So, I should probably cut down on it, right? Is there anything like that in your life?

It makes praying easier.

I don’t know about you but my prayers are usually a complete mess, not clear well-thought-out sentences. My thoughts are, at best, one or two or a few, long meandering streams that are easy to get lost in. So, when I make the effort to write it down, it can feel a lot more solid and organised when I come to pray, than if I just thought about it in passing. 

Also the act of writing was something to be grateful for. This might seem a little obvious, because I’m a person with a writing degree, who volunteers to write blogs every week, but I really like writing. Maybe you should incorporate something you like doing, into your prayer life. If you like singing, sing your prayers. If you like doodling, draw your prayers.

Practised gratefulness becomes instinctive.

The world teaches us not to be grateful in case it comes across as proud or boastful and sometimes because marketing and media is set up to pull us towards the next new thing. So, it takes some practice and unlearning, like any skill. That’s why doing it regularly and making gratefulness part of your routine is important. After a while I found myself finding things that I’m grateful for when I wasn’t sat down with a piece of paper. 

It helps on the days when you don’t feel like you have anything to be grateful for.

As often happens, I sometimes found myself too busy or tired to write something down. And it’s easy to find yourself feeling bad about not doing it and even giving up. However feeling bad about yourself is the complete opposite of what the idea is about. 

And there were days when I just felt sad and didn’t feel like being grateful. However, there were times when rereading my list or going through it in my head genuinely helped.

I hope you can find some things to be grateful for in your life.

There’s usually something to be grateful for. I hope you try to take care of the body and mind you live in. I hope you accept the help of people who care about you. No matter what happens, you are loved.

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