Last Sunday, having exploring the theme of gratitude with my fellow Fresh Air Fridays facilitators the day before, I decided to introduce the topic with my family over dinner.
I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about whether they would engage with it. After all my 45-year-old hubby and 16 and 13-year-olds are often a little bemused by my Fresh Air Fridays work.
But I was feeling optimistic so I simply said:
“OK, so if you could pick one thing that you’re grateful for this week, what would it be?”
No more than five seconds passed before my hubby chipped in to say that he was grateful for the time he’d spent with his dad, taking him to the Albert Hall to see Joe Bonamassa (a guitarist – think Eric Clapton if you’ve never heard of him.)
Another few seconds passed and my daughter (16) piped up that she was grateful for how welcoming her boyfriend’s family were when she’d visited them for the first time that week.
And then it was the 13-year-old’s turn. He expressed his thanks to his dad who, during his week off work, had taken him to Oxford for a chess competition.
Even more fabulously, that wasn’t the end of the conversation.
We moved from gratitude in the moment to broader things. The highlight was probably my son’s thankfulness for the person who donated the blood that saved his life when he was born prematurely and needing an ‘exchange transfusion?’*.
We often talk about the things we do at Fresh Air Fridays being simple, but not necessarily easy, and so it is with gratitude.
When I first started to explore the topic I had a formal practice, writing down three things I was grateful for each day. I also kept a rock in my coat pocket, a physical reminder to reflect.
This really worked for me as it brought, and kept, the idea of gratitude at the front of my mind. Over time though, I found that writing things down everyday became less important. I realised that my brain had shifted into a space where it more easily found and acknowledged the good stuff.
From there I began to acknowledge and appreciate the people around me more consciously.
To be frank, it was a bit cringey to begin with. I worried how people might react, whether it might be a bit uncomfortable for them. However, although there were moments when people haven’t known what to say, I know that it’s made a difference, to me as well as them (there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed after all!)
Now I feel there’s a new step to take in my exploration of gratitude – encouraging others to think about it too.
Buoyed by the response of my nearest and dearest last Sunday, who are often my toughest audience, I’m excited to spread my gratitude love far and wide!
If you’d like to read more about gratitude and why it’s so important to mental health and wellbeing, please take a look at our blogs page.
To read more about gratitude from one of our favourite people, Brene Brown, take a look at her website.
If you’d like to find out more about what we do, why not come along to a session – visit our Sessions page
*An exchange transfusion is a blood transfusion in which the patient’s blood or components of it are exchanged with (replaced by) other blood or blood products. This exchange transfusion can be performed manually or using a machine. (Source: Wikipedia)