In case you missed it, I turned the big 50 this week! A birthday in isolation was not exactly what I had in mind. However, I made the most of the day. Dressed up, showed up and had so much fun. Even the weather was kind that day so I was able to sit in the garden when it was time to blow out the candles. No, there were not 50 candles on the cake!
I admit, the day before, I had difficulty feeling grateful. I was missing my friends and reminiscing on past birthdays. I do like a celebration! We are facing uncertainty and this can make it tough to focus on the positives and things we can do to look after our health. Especially our mental health. It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
“Focusing on gratitude instead of expectations sets you up for success in relationships and overall happiness”
So, the early morning of my birthday was spent in tears. Tears of happiness. My amazing daughter had secretly been asking my wonderful friends to record video birthday messages for me so it felt as if they were with me in spirit. And later in the day she had organised a Zoom family quiz. It was a virtual celebration. I went to bed feeling so happy and grateful for my friends, my family, my daughter gets a special shout out, the weather, the food and drink, the fabulous gifts I received, the love and joy I felt. And my house is like a florists. It is filled with the scent of so many different beautiful flowers.
Research on gratitude has shown that it is a powerful method for increasing our well-being. People who regularly take the time to reflect and notice the things they are thankful for, experience more positive emotions, sleep better and have stronger immune systems. They also show more compassion and kindness. If you have days or moments when you are struggling, and I know many of you do, here are some tips that will help you bring gratitude into your daily life.
- Recognise that it’s ok to feel how you are at present. There is no right or wrong way you should be feeling. You are probably going through a range of emotions. Anger, sadness, fear. Stress and overwhelm can creep in. You don’t have to work out every day, bake banana bread or sourdough, re-organise all your household cupboards, fridge and freezer, learn to write a book, or read several books, learn a new skill or take up a new hobby. Be compassionate with yourself and accept your own thoughts. It is enough to feel safe and healthy.
- Find 3 things to be grateful for on a daily basis. Keep it simple. Think of 3 things that made you smile or laugh. Donald Trump, a blue sky, a friendly phone call that came just at the right time, the birds singing, someone else taking the bins out or doing the dishes, a relaxing bath, a shoulder massage, a meal cooked, the ironing. Try to notice new things each day. I like to do this in bed at night just before I turn out the light for sleep. I probably go to sleep with a smile on my face! However, if you go to bed exhausted then do this practice at a time in the day that suits your schedule. If you have a family at home you could have a gratitude jar whereby everyone has to write down at least one thing that they are grateful for that day and pop it in the jar. You can read them out at the end of the week over a family meal and make it a game. Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you gain clarity and perspective. Research has shown this can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction. I like to call my journal my brain dump journal.
- Focus on the people that make you happy. Send them a text, video message just to say Hi and Thank You for being there. Our relationships with others can determine our overall happiness. Surround yourself with those who bring out the best in you, not the stress in you.
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears”
We are going through one of the most stressful time periods in our history. Frontline workers, healthcare workers are all putting their lives at risk to help keep us safe and for that purpose I am truly grateful. We are missing human connection with our loved ones but this too shall pass and we will rebuild. We will celebrate birthdays again and dance on tables! Humans have amazing resilience. Be kind to yourself. Stay safe, happy & healthy.
Your health is your wealth and you are your most important asset