I ran a workshop this week which touched on the links between happiness and gratitude. When we remember to notice and give thanks for the good things in our lives we experience a powerful sense of connection with ourselves, with other people, and with the here and now; it’s a shortcut to happiness.
We also discussed the more challenging idea of giving thanks for whatever happens to us, unconditionally – that perhaps even things that don’t seem like gifts could be blessings in disguise. It’s a shift of belief – as Robert Holden says, ‘What if life didn’t happen to you, it happened for you?’ A concept we use in NLP is that of reframing – ie. taking a new perspective or putting a positive spin on a situation, in order to deliberately change our response to it.
Sometimes life throws us a shift in perspective without us even having to think about it. For example, I remember having a shouting match with my eldest son Chris when he was a teenager, which resulted in him flouncing out with much slamming of doors. (Not surprisingly I can’t even remember what it was about now!) Trying to calm down I picked up a yearbook he’d left on the table – an American idea which his school had adopted as a record for the dreams and ambitions of the sixth-formers as they went off into the wide world. I amused myself with browsing the entries and marvelling at the difference in character between the youngsters who proclaimed ‘I’m going to be famous!’ and the ones whose entries read ‘Next year I’ve enrolled to study for Stage 1 of my accountancy exams’.
One of the entries simply said. ‘Next year I hope to grow my hair’. What? That’s a pretty low-key ambition, I thought, until I looked closer at the photograph and realised it belonged to one of my son’s classmates who had been diagnosed with cancer the previous year. While her pals had been studying for A-levels, growing up and having fun, she’d been in and out of hospital undergoing chemotherapy.
I had a sudden vision of the thousands of parents sitting by hospital bedsides or in intensive care units who would give their eye teeth to be in my shoes – back home with a stroppy teenager kicking up a storm – what a blessing that would be. How lucky was I to have a healthy child to argue with?
Now while I cannot, hand on heart, say that’s the last time I had cross words with my son – because a) I’m not perfect and b) have you met Chris? – that memory is a great reminder to stand back and take the long view in the heat of the moment. There’s nearly always a fresh perspective I’m missing . . . and nearly always something to be grateful for.
I’d love to hear what you’re grateful for – please share!
Poem of the Week
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.