When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself – Tecumseh
One never knows what the day will bring. As I stepped out for my morning walk last Friday, I was feeling particularly grateful for day; the clear blue sky, the warmth of the sun, the chirping birds and the fresh Tasmanian air (unseasonably warm, always a bonus).
My mind had been plagued by the negative thoughts I had been having toward a person and a situation which had made me particularly crabby (understatement!). But after having read Howells’ book, Gratitude in Education: a radical view (2012), I began to consider that my acts of gratitude in the face of adversity or challenge, could very well be the answer I was looking for to these overwhelming negative and consuming emotions. Howells’ states that gratitude helps build better connectedness, improve relationships and provide a greater sense of joy and satisfaction (2012, p. 19).
So, what did that day bring? That new day brimming with hope and promise and gratefulness? My grateful thoughts about the person who I had difficulty with last week, led to a text message to catch up.
Two days later, we found ourselves seated at a local café. I brought my friend coffee, expressed my gratitude for her and all that she had brought to my life, even in the midst of recent misunderstandings. We talked. We built new bridges and we made new plans. What happened during this exchange? There was tangible change in our friendship. And it was good.
However, as Howells’ (2012) points out, we cannot simply hang our gratitude hat on the outcomes or change in a situation, other person, or in self. If there is change, that is great. But more importantly, Howells (2012) argues that to focus on aspects of our own character that needs refining, tuning, changing, is what matters more than external results. Self transformation.
The greatest relief about gratitude though, is that gratitude is a practice. I don’t have to get it all right, all the time or straight away. Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes. Seeing as I leapt over the hurdle of a difficult relationship situation and was fortunate enough to have immediate ‘results’ from a gratitude action, I have decided I need to aim a little smaller and more consistently this week.
Working, studying and parenting have taken its toll this year, and I’m due for a holiday (long overdue). So, my challenge will be keeping a smile on my dial at work and not snapping at my kids. When I think about it, these really are not small gratitude practices! However, I do know they will make a big difference to how I feel and to those around me. I am aiming though, for character transformation. I want my inner attitude of gratitude to be real, honest, authentic and giving out of all I have received (Howells, 2012).
Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education: A Radical View, Sense Publishers.