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Gratitude: A Tool to Lighten Up Your Life

By Sinead Hamill

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold rather a large amount of Gratitude.”

A.A. Milne, Winne-the-Pooh

Well, clever old Piglet! It’s the same for all of us. Whatever our age or circumstances, there is always something in our lives to be grateful for. Unfortunately, with today’s hectic lifestyles - which are too often focused on materialist pursuits - 

we can sometimes lose sight of this.

With Christmas just around the corner, this could be the perfect time to reflect on just how blessed each of us are; take note of what is actually important in this life and get rid of meaningless, empty stresses. It’s also the perfect opportunity to introduce or remind children of the virtues of love, kindness and gratitude.

Gratitude is about so much more than merely saying 'thank you'. When a person truly acknowledges and is grateful for the many blessings they encounter, a ripple of positive energy is released, enriching that person’s life and the lives of those around them.

Studies on gratitude have revealed the following benefits of its practice:

  • Less materialism – an appreciation for life and what truly matters.

  • Lower levels of stress – Focusing on the good around us enables us to quash feelings of stress and anxiety. Nine times out of 10, problems are unnecessary and made important only in our minds.

  • Better relationships - When we value the people in our lives, it brings us closer to them and helps us to be empathetic and mindful of the needs of others. Having an appreciation for the goodness in our lives enables us to be happy for others when they are experiencing joy and good fortunes.

  • Self-confidence – Appreciating our talents and gifts encourages us to respect and develop them. When we feel good about ourselves we are more likely to want to share our gifts with others, bringing joy to their lives. Acknowledging our strengths promotes us to set higher life goals for ourselves and pursue them with confidence.

  • Physical health – Stress is a major cause of disease, so naturally if we choose to remain focused on joyful matters our physical health will stand to benefit.

  • Better rest – Taking time to practice gratitude can clear your mind of worries, leaving you free to drift off happily to the ‘Land of Nod’.

  • Sounds great, right? ‘But how easy is it to achieve all of this?’ I hear you ask. It’s easier than you think, and the true beauty of it is that, just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “you’ve always had the power.” Your mind chooses the thoughts it wants to focus on; it’s you who accepts or rejects them.

The following are ways in which you and your children can develop the act of gratitude:

Daily journaling- Recording positive things about each day using either pictures or written accounts encourages you to look for and notice positive events as they occur. Doing this as a family will also allow you to share happy stories with each other and strengthen your family unit.

Charity- Taking part in a charitable event, such as the Christmas ‘Shoebox Appeal’ in aid of children in Africa and Eastern European Countries, reminds us not to take ‘the little things’ for granted. Teaching children about the preciousness of life encourages them to give more to others.

Selective goal setting – Choose to use and develop your skills and talents for the love and happiness they bring to you and others rather than chasing materialistic dreams alone.

Basic manners – Recognise that we are not simply entitled to receive everything we desire. By not giving into our children’s every whim and request, we teach them to appreciate the efforts others make for them as well as the gifts they receive. Teach them the importance of giving thanks. Indeed, this goes for adults too.

Very soon Santa Claus will be coming to town with a sleigh full of gifts, but this Christmas you can give others a gift that can’t be wrapped and money can’t buy – an ‘attitude of gratitude’. Enrich the lives of all your loved ones, making sure they all know how much you value and appreciate them. Have a Happy Christmas and a Grateful New Year!

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