9 December, 2015
The music and literature of Christmas is imbued with the not-so-subtle message that the festive season is a time of giving and thanks. But you only need to cast an eye around our society to see that for the majority of us, especially children, Christmas has become mostly about acquiring. When I asked my 13-year-old cousin recently what he hoped to receive from Santa this year, he replied that he hadn’t written his ‘list’ yet. I wonder how many Syrian kids this year will be getting one gift, let alone a list-full.
It’s an all too familiar scene on Christmas morning: kids surrounded by hordes of presents, ripping and shredding through the paper to open the next one. In this way, we as parents are already creating the environment for the ‘not enough’ mentality to take root.
As adults our desire for Christmas presents is much altered from our 13 year old selves. We lie in bed at 6am hoping the kids will give us an extra 30 minutes of shuteye before enveloping us in their madness. Perhaps we’ll get some new socks, Dan Carter’s biography or something from Mum for the kitchen – a lovely pair of clean oven mits, great!
Of course there are the more ambitious desires for better cars, houses, batches, oodles of money, international travel. Many of these things won’t be wrapped up in a bow under the Christmas tree, they have to be worked for. Once acquired, you then have to keep working hard to retain them. Unless dealt with head-on, this neediness is never abated; it just develops in to a new desire, a new thing, a new toy and time keeps ticking.
On a deeper, dustier, level there are the things we’ve been longing for our whole lives. Meaningful relationships with others, a loving partner to share your life with or true, gratifying, purpose in what you do. We’ve all heard that you can’t say you are truly rich until you’ve acquired something off this shelf of life experiences.
The practice of gratitude is one that I was introduced to about four years ago and has had a noticeable effect on my day-to-day life. When we practise gratitude we are demonstrating to the universe that we recognise what is working well for us in our lives already. The philosophical concept of ‘The Law of Attraction’ is based on the idea that the thoughts you think will attract your life experiences. In bestselling books like ‘The Secret’, writers and teachers point to the practice of gratitude as being one of the best ways for you to show the universe clearly what it is you want to see more of in your life, and in this way we can re-train our brains to think more positively.
So how can we practise gratitude? One of the easiest ways is to start a gratitude journal, where you write around 20 gratitudes daily for a period of 21 days (roughly the length of time it takes to make a habit). Make sure to write what your grateful for and why, like in the following examples:
I am grateful to live in New Zealand. I am blessed to live in a free thinking, democratic country surrounded by a beautiful environment and lovely neighbours.
I am grateful to have a fridge full of healthy food. I am blessed to be able to go to the supermarket and buy whatever I want and prepare healthy, nourishing food for my family.
I am grateful to have fresh water at the tap. I am blessed to live in a place where it’s normal to have fresh, clean, safe water to drink on demand.
Some days you will find that your gratitudes flow easily and you’ll be able to acknowledge the more meaningful and deeper aspects of your life. Other days may be a struggle, in which case it’s fine to be grateful for things like your car, the fact that it rained last night or for the cookie you ate at morning tea. You are only limited by your imagination, let the creative juices flow!
That, of course, is gratitudes 101. Where it gets trickier and even more powerful is when you can start to be grateful for negative circumstances you’ve experienced. By practicing gratitude in the hard times, you remove yourself from the role of ‘victim’ and take control back over your inner world. Here’s an example:
I am grateful for the large sum of money to pay the electricity bill this winter. I am blessed to have electricity at my finger tips, to see at night, to wash my dishes/clothes and to keep my family warm.
I am grateful the lady who drove in to me in the car park only clipped the bumper and not worse. I am blessed to only experience minor fender benders and not a major collision at speed.
Like Pollyanna said ‘there’s always something to be glad about’! Start playing the grateful game with your life and let the miracles flow. It’s not a maybe, it’s a certainty. Above all else, writing out or reciting gratitudes to yourself makes you feel better. When times are tough or you’re having a low day, a few gratitudes could be all it takes to get you back on the course of wellbeing and joy – experiences that are your inherent birth-right.
To learn more about the practice of gratitude and create your own vision for 2016, please join me for my ‘Resolve To Evolve’ workshop in Auckland on Saturday January 16th – click here to book your space.