I have noticed that there has been an awful lot of gratitude in the blogosphere of late. Bloggers being grateful that is. Maybe that is because I read a number of parent blogs or blogs by people who, while they don’t blog about parenting per se, are parents nonetheless.
I have found it so much easier to be grateful as a parent than I ever did before, when I found it all too easy to slip into the dangerous practice of over thinking about the things winding me up, stressing me out and making my blood pressure boil. But none of my fretting, analysing or sharing ever improved a situation, it only focused my mind on the less than perfect stuff and rarely allowed me to be in the moment and grateful for the good things that were going my way.
I haven’t given up the practice as wholeheartedly as I would like, but then I’m not perfect. Far from it. I have progressed from incompetent to consciously incompetent. In my experience, (well who else is this blog about?!), parenthood forces us to look outside our selves. To our child first and through them, to those closest to us and eventually to the wider world.
Firstly, I want Little Chap to know he can rely on me to acknowledge his feelings as an individual, especially when they run counter to my own or what I want them to be and to really listen to him, not just as he recounts his successes and triumphs, but more importantly his failures, hurts and disappointments. As his mother, I want to encourage Little Chap to find ways to dig deep and find resilience, strength and solutions to his problems by himself, while continually reassuring him that I am there for him every step of the way, holding his hand, physically or metaphorically.
One way I know I can do that is by acknowledging his feelings, helping him to name them and develop ways to manage them . I still need to do that for myself at times and I’m truly blessed to have Mayfair Dad who acknowledges my feelings, turbulent and frightening though they may sometimes be to me and utterly incomprehensible to him!
Secondly, I want to introduce a little more spirituality and appreciation for our world into Little Chap’s life. Call it praying, meditating, or what you will, I want to teach him to take time to reflect on his day. Kids seem to be naturally in tune with the universe and what better time in his life to encourage him to learn to reflect and connect with all that it throws at him than now. It is also a great way for me to find out what he’s been up to at school or childcare. It would be so easy to just let that go at the end of a busy day, but if I did, I wouldn’t feel the same connection.
I ask Little Chap what made him happy today. Once he feels relaxed and happy telling me about something fun or exciting, I then ask him if anything has made him sad. Most of the time, I’m happy to report he says “Nothing Mummy” but when there is something on his mind, I can try to help him find a solution before he goes to sleep or, if that isn’t possible, to at least let him know I’m thinking about how best to help him. He can then sleep knowing his problem shared is a problem halved. I remember that feeling of immense relief when, as a child, I would unburden myself to my mother at lights out. Just knowing that she knew my troubled secret led to a good night’s sleep, which in turn, usually made things easier to manage in the morning.
As an alternative, we might say a prayer together for what we want to thank God for (keeping us all safe, or the beautiful frost on the trees in winter or time playing in the sunshine with friends) and then to ask Him for what we need his help with most. In my case, this is usually easy – more patience! In Little Chap’s it might be to help him listen to us or share nicely with his friends. If nothing else this special time together is an opportunity to refocus on the positives – on what we enjoyed or want to do more of and on what we want to do better (as opposed to what we don’t want to do). So often, at the end of a less than perfect parenting day this has a beneficial effect on me too! The parenting mantra that “tomorrow is another day” ringing loud in my ears.
So back to this gratitude trend. A while back, I read about keeping a success journal in Write to Live, Live to Write. The idea that by keeping a daily list of your achievements, just one a day, gives you a powerful 365 successes to reflect on at the end of the year, Imagine the buzz, the sense of satisfaction but also motivation to set your sights higher for the coming year.
This was also a theme of a NetMums Making Mums Happy programme I subscribed to a while back, where one of their suggestions was to keep a gratitude or happiness journal, i.e. a daily note of the things you are grateful for in your life (it could be the three good meals you ate, the lady in the car park who gave you her ticket and an hour’s free parking, or the friend who relieved you of your toddler for an hour so you could get your hair done). It is so much harder to feel grumpy or disillusioned with the world, when you’re forcing yourself to focus only on the good stuff.
Most recently, I followed a link to an article on Linked In and found a list of habits that would “change my professional life”. One of them was to set up a practice of gratitude and record at least one thing before you go to sleep each night that you are grateful for about your job. The idea is that by consciously writing these good, positive experiences and feelings down, we positively reinforce that feeling of success and that good/warm/loving vibe we had when the event happened which in turn makes it more likely to happen again.
Recently at work, I’ve had to recruit and work with a new colleague. She’s only temporary but we job share and, as communicating is paramount to our mutual success, we agreed to keep a simple log of our shared responsibilities that we could both update/refer to each week so we both know what’s going on. The idea being that if she sorts an IT issue on Monday, but it recurs on my shift, Miss Moneypenny here can treat the problem appropriately, not as if it is happening for the first time. Not only has this made me more effective at work, it has given me a renewed sense of achievement, purpose and enthusiasm for my role as I see my involvement and responsibility grow daily on the spreadsheet. I wish I’d done it from day one it could have saved me some angst.
And so it occurred to me, that I should try to focus more on gratitude across all areas of life, not just work. Hell, it can’t be a bad thing can it? My challenge to myself, is to try to join in with the lovely linky that is #R2BC (Reasons to Be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3) run by Michelle at Mummy From The Heart in order to get myself writing more regularly but I’m hoping it will help me focus a little more on the good things everywhere I’m my life and I’m grateful for that.
Do you try to focus on the good things in your life every day? How do you do it? What makes you most grateful? Do you find that you feel less positive about things when you don’t do it? Why not pop over and join in with the linky?
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