Yesterday was sunny, so I cycled home from work by the sea, past piles of pink warm granite tumbling into the blue. Children laughed with dinghies in the shallows, while their parents stretched out on the sand like cats.
After turning inland the road gets steep. I jumped off and walked, I took my time. It was peaceful. I thought about the day, about work, the jobs to do at home, about dinner. Then something caught my eye. A white butterfly floated by, and came to rest on a thistle close to me. Stopping to have a closer look, I realised the whole hedgerow was alive with all kinds of flying things.
I became a little entranced by it all; it was beautiful. It seemed that nature’s intricate tale was unfolding all around me. I became an intent observer, and the creatures carried on in spite of my presence. It struck me, that If I were not there, it would all still be happening, without missing me one bit. I felt humbled; it could be so easy, I thought, for my life to never have happened at all – the butterflies would carry on flitting, the bees collecting, and the flies hovering.
‘How lucky it is, that I actually do exist’, I thought. I started being thankful for my life and the things in it; my family, my bike, the smooth road, the view, the sun.
Lately I’ve been discovering the fascinating power of being thankful
It is easy not to be thankful. For some reason, we spend a lot of time focusing on what we don’t have, or what hasn’t worked out in the way we hoped. Perhaps for you, life doesn’t feel quite as great as you would like. Maybe it’s mundane, stressful or even painful. Your thoughts could be consumed by difficulties and challenges, or just the everyday chores.
If you are in that place, I want to encourage you. I believe it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve found that choosing to be thankful for things when I don’t feel thankful has a potent effect. If you’re ever in a bit of a ditch, or a little pit of depression, try being thankful for something. It may take you a long time before you think of something that you are grateful for. Sometimes the negative thought pathways in our mind can get so well trodden, that it’s very difficult to move off of them.
It is a leap of faith to start creating positive thoughts when you don’t feel anything good. It doesn’t come naturally. Unless we make a conscious decision to think otherwise, our minds automatically reflect our circumstances. But the truth is, your circumstances do not need to dictate what you think about, and in turn, do not need to take away joy.
This is not denial. This is not empty hope, that if you imagine hard enough, everything in your life will magically become awesome. It is important to make a realistic assessment of your situation, to identify and acknowledge the things that are affecting the way you feel. In fact, that’s exactly why this is so powerful. Despite the reality of your difficulty, you can stand up and make a choice to think differently. You are homing in on the tiny glimmer of good, rather than the perceived looming shadow. It’s this choice, which makes all the difference.
Why is this a good choice to make? Why is making yourself think about the good rather than the bad special? The answer, is that choosing to dwell on those things (however small) you are thankful for, you produce a fertile and creative environment inside of you. In this environment, things can grow.
By simply reacting to your bad circumstances and letting them control your thoughts, you actually kill the very thing that can enable you to change them – hope.
Be thankful, let hope grow, change your life
By cultivating thankfulness, you make room for hope. And when hope moves in, everything changes. Hope sees. It uncovers your eyes to new opportunities; new relationships, ideas and answers. There will be solutions to your difficulties which you can never see without hope. Let it grow, water it with thankfulness, and you will overcome difficulties, make better choices and do hard things.
To start this exciting journey, have a go at making a habit out of being thankful. Every day, take a little time to think of 5 things you are grateful for, no matter how small. You could even write them down.
If you try this, I would really love to hear about how you get on – get in touch!