This week I have have been writing a chapter on emotional wellbeing. For part of this, I have been thinking about the practice of gratitude and how this can enhance our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Sonja Lyubomirsky has written a book called The How of Happiness, she is the professor of psychology at the University of California and has spent years researching happiness. One conclusion from her research, this is also echoed through Brene Brown and Kristin Neff’s research is the positive impact regularly practicing gratitude can have on a persons life.
Lyubomirsky suggests keeping a gratitude diary or noticing and giving thanks regularly in the moment.
It is so easy to get caught up in the difficulties, the problems, the negative aspects of life. This can be a particular danger in my nurture work, where some of the children are regularly displaying challenging, unhappy, distressed behavior. There is some staff I work with who wait to tell me the long list of things which have gone wrong that week, and that is ok, I am there to hear those, to support them in their frustration, but I also need to be able to see the glimmers of hope as well. One way I try hard to practice gratitude in my nurture work is by thanking the child at the end of our session together. I will tell them how much I have enjoyed being with them and playing together that day. I will find one thing to focus on that went well, this maybe ‘ I love the way you enjoyed the sand today’ or ‘I enjoyed playing bubbles with you today and watching you smile and laugh when you caught them”. This act of expressing gratitude to the children helps them to feel valued and wanted, and it helps me to find the glimmer of hope in the work.
Gratitude is sometimes for the big events and others for the fleeting moment. I have had both this week, my Dad was taken critically ill in New Zealand while visiting my sister at the beginning of this week but is thankfully now recovering and doing well, I feel so grateful for him surviving. I have also had moments of gratitude while being in the sunshine and enjoying the spring flowers growing in my garden.
It is worth taking a moment to think about what you are grateful for from this last week.