Be Grateful or Be Grumpy



This last couple of weeks I have felt grumpy. With myself, with the world, with my family, my friends, my students… Generally just grumpy.

You might think that a swim in a cold lake would alleviate some of this grumpiness, and I have to admit it did temporarily invigorate my mood, but grumpy returned swiftly as a default position.

I have tried (and failed) to write, realising when I pick up the pen, or plonk myself purposefully in front of the screen, that I actually have nothing much to say. Nothing of worth. (Cue violins…)

So I realised I need to FIND something to say – I need to create something worth saying. So often, I preach (yes, in full “preachy”, self-satisfied, moral high ground tones – annoying eh?) gratitude as an essential anti-depressant. I am not depressed – I have been there and done that enough to recognise the signs – but I am feeling low, on energy, on enthusiasm, on motivation. So I need to do something to change this mind-set.

My plan is this – 30 days of gratitude. For the last few years I have formed a daily habit of writing down in my “grateful book” three things to be grateful for. I read a while back that this can improve mood and wellbeing, and I wholeheartedly agree. It is an enormously satisfying process; more so on days when I pick up the pen thinking I have nothing positive to say. The internal lecture that follows never fails to elicit a response of appreciation of the most basic of human luxuries – two arms, two legs, a roof over my head, water in the tap etc. I never, ever fail to find two, and on a bad day I have been known to force myself to extend this to as many as 60, when I felt I really need to “get over myself”. And it worked. It really does do you good to take a moment to stop to notice all the things that DIDN’T go wrong on any given day, the things I have not had to find a way to live without. The boiler did not break down; the car started; the fridge has not switched itself off, resulting in rotten food and sour milk. These tiny little fortunes that, if reversed, have the potential to ruin a day just go unnoticed, unappreciated.

So I will spend time each day in July choosing one thing that I am truly grateful for each day (not my usual three – this is a project of quality over quantity, depth over breadth). The aim is that by the end of it, I have gained a genuine appreciation of all that is good in my life, and can look back over this on days mired in grumpiness and self-absorbed wallowing, and give myself a jolly good talking to.

So to kick things off, and to recognise the luxury of such wallowing being even a possibility, I am grateful that there is time and space in my life to do this. I recognise that many people are so busy in their immovable obligations – their careers, their roles as full-time carers, their parenting of small and demanding children who are wide awake too early or too late to allow any space for reflection before or after a busy day of doing…

I am lucky that I can rise early, switch on the PC and sit deeply flooded in contemplative thought. I can wallow long enough to talk myself out of the wallowing, and for that, today, I am grateful.  Thank you.

Gratitude pebble

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