Long ago, before I became a psychologist I was really battling in my relationship and was seeing a psychologist for some support. I was so focussed on all the things that were not working and could not imagine how the relationship would work in the long-term. I was depressed and felt stuck. My therapist suggested something that I have never forgotten and have since ‘prescribed’ to many of my clients.
She suggested that I spend some time very consciously focussing on and being grateful for all the things that I was happy with in the relationship and in relation to my partner. Figuring there was nothing to lose and wondering how I could possibly find things I was happy about (yes, it was that bad!) I went for a short walk and the whole way thought of all the little things I could be grateful for within the relationship and about my partner.
I had to dig deep initially – the time he did remember my birthday, the time he did the dishes without me having to ask – and then it became easier and easier to remember and recognise positive experiences and acknowledge positive qualities of his that I could be grateful for.
By the time I got home I was surprised to find that I felt lighter, less stuck and more positive about the relationship. The process had got me out of my negative downward spiral of perceiving only the negative which made me feel bad so that I could only perceive him and the relationship through that lens. With the practice of conscious gratitude I changed the lens and then was able to see more positives, feel happier and experience more gratitude.
Our mood has a major impact on how we perceive things which then further impacts our mood. The practice of conscious gratitude is a powerful pattern disruptor and an added benefit is that energy flows where our attention goes. So we perceive and receive more of what we focus on.
By me shifting my perspective I continued to see the things that were working and that I valued about my partner who then later became my husband, and for whom I have so much gratitude now.
Today many people will celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a day for conscious gratitude and in this year it may be difficult for many to find things to be grateful for if you have experienced loss, grief, life-altering changes, financial difficulties and health issues or if lock down and social distancing is preventing a Thanksgiving get-together.
Dig deep and start with the small things e.g. I have 10 working fingers and toes (even if the toenail is a bit wonky on that baby toe!); I am able to breathe in and out without needing to think about it and this enables me to continue to receive the gift of life; my senses are working so I can experience the world through all of them. Go for a walk like I did and list them in your head or sit down and write a list. But do give it at least 10 minutes and gently push through when it seems really hard to do. Perhaps you can even measure your mood on a scale of 1-10 before you start and then measure it again afterwards. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!
While we’re on the theme of thanksgiving I wish to give thanks to all of you who continue to read and watch what I share and those who provide comments and feedback to enable me to get a feel for what is needed and to create a deeper connection. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to share what I have learned over the years and my hope is that it may continue to serve you well.