Appreciating small things: practicing gratitude

This week, on my drive to and from work, I have noticed the vibrant yellow daffodils that have emerged on the roadsides. There are hundreds of them. Some are pure yellow, some nearly white, and some have bright orange centres like glowing suns. They seem to catch the sunlight, which just makes them more colourful. Each time I’ve seen them this week, I have smiled.

It is hard sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, to be really grateful for what you have. When things are tough, being grateful gets that much harder. There is evidence that a gratitude practice can help protect against depression, and can help alleviate dark thoughts. I had never really thought of focusing on things I was grateful for until relatively recently.

Which is not to say I haven’t been grateful. I have, I’ve just never felt the need to put it into words as such. When things feel insurmountable, when the anxiety is raging and your goals or plans seem further and further out of reach, focusing on the teeny tiny things really does make a difference. It pulls your attention to the here and now. You are forced to think about your life as it is today, not as it was or as you wish it were or what you hope it will be. You have to find things in your ordinary (extraordinary) everyday life that you are thankful for.

We are living in an age of distraction. As I’ve written this post I’ve checked Twitter (work and personal accounts) at least twice, if not more. I’ve written a list of things to do. I’ve checked my email, my Instagram. I’ve replied to messages on my phone. In short, I’ve been multitasking and unfocussed. And that is not a good thing.

The ease with which I can be distracted also factors into not being able to see all the things I do have. Social media makes it very easy to see what other people have, their accomplishments, and it is possible to spiral into a void of longing and self-dissatisfaction. In this age of sharing, other people’s lives are highly visible, and comparing your own life to others is easier than ever before.

But every morning, for the past few weeks, I’ve sat on the couch for ten or fifteen minutes. I’ve sipped my coffee and I’ve written three things that I am grateful for that day. For those ten or so minutes, that is all I do. Sometimes I have to tell myself to put down my phone and begin but once I’ve begun, my mind is concentrating on good things.

I have no idea if this practice is making any difference to my mental wellbeing. I am back on medication to help me cope too but I find this practice I am developing, done first thing in the morning after dressing, centres me a little, and helps me start the day off feeling good. It doesn’t matter how quickly it descends into stress and fog, for those few minutes I am focusing all my energy on appreciating what is good in my world.