Since I did my coach training some ten years ago, I have read a lot of books and articles on mindset, behaviours, happiness, positive psychology, coaching, leadership, culture and a variety of ‘self-help’ topics. One thing that has struck me time and time again is how much of what we are ‘discovering’ now was already known in our folklore, eastern philosophy and spirituality, the great religions and what our granny used to say.
When I went to Sunday School (hard to believe but I was a cherubic little boy, once. With the voice of an angel … Ok, no. I’ve gone too far there …) Anyway, when I went to Sunday School, we all liked to sing “Count your blessings”. I can still remember the words. ‘Count them one by one (two, three, four!)’. We sang the part in brackets with particular gusto, I recall.
But it’s a phrase we all know, isn’t it? “You should count your blessings”, we say when a friend is feeling a bit glum or has suffered a mishap and needs a bit of cheering up. (Or if we are being particularly sanctimonious, which is less good.) It’s advice offered regularly from many pulpits, a good fall-back topic for a sermon.
In today’s New Age parlance, we call this a ‘Gratitude Practice’. And when we’re a bit glum, we call it ‘depressed’. Modern research shows that when we are ‘depressed’, a ‘Gratitude Practice’ will change our emotional state in as little as a couple of weeks. Do it for a month and it can turn it around completely and lift your depression. The practice is simply to note three things that you are grateful for and write them down (ideally stating why you are grateful for them, but it still works if you don’t do this).
I’ve used this when I was feeling depressed and can attest that it works. I encourage my clients to do it, too. It’s ridiculously simple. At the beginning, you may write apparently mundane things like ‘getting up’, ‘the sunshine’, ‘having food to eat’ and you’ll be thinking “This is ridiculous, it’s desperate”. However, if you persist in doing it every day, you will start to find other things to be grateful for and your mood will inexorably and almost imperceptibly lift. At the end of a month you will be positively fizzing with things to be grateful for.
All that research, all that study, all that brainpower and it seems Granny had the answer all along. Count your blessings. Everyday.
What else do we need to learn that we already know, I wonder?