Written By Andy Lam
Centre Manager of Whispering Hearts Family Service Centre
Gratitude / n [U] the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful (adapted from Dictionary.com)
The term “Gratitude” carries with it a positive connotation. Some people akin it to “counting your blessings”. For me, it also presents an interesting phenomenon. Why so? Gratitude is analogous to a warm comforter to seek refuge from on a really cold night. Yet, it also seems that warm comforters are appreciated almost only on cold nights, sadly being cast aside otherwise.
Perhaps it is worthwhile for us to sit back and remind ourselves of the times when we truly feel grateful. Can you recall any? I posed this question to a friend sitting across me as I was penning this article. He paused for a good 20 seconds before replying, “Yeah, when I read about Typhoon Vongfong in Japan maybe a month ago…I felt grateful Singapore is not at the mercy of natural disasters.”
He is not alone. As individuals moving across the different domains of life on a daily basis, we often do not register the awareness of feeling grateful, in the literal sense. For most people, it is only in the face of something negative, usually happening to others and not ourselves, that we get a brief taste of gratitude.
Have we turned gratefulness into a selfish recognition we allow ourselves only when others are suffering? How then do we learn to feel grateful for our own lives simply because?
At Viriya Community Services, we predominantly work with individuals and families in need. Faced with challenges in their lives, I often find it useful to incorporate elements of gratitude in the transient journey we undertake, and I invite you to attempt one such exercise which I am going to share. It looks incredibly easy, but to employ it diligently requires a little more effort than you might imagine.
As you lie on your bed, getting ready to retire for the night, ask yourself a simple question, “What are three good things that happened to me today?”
In the silence and peace of the night, recalling and recounting the good moments in the day gives us a chance to reflect and be grateful for our own lives and experiences.
There are numerous research suggesting that the magic number for habits to be formed typically range between 21 and 254 days. From my own experience, many of my clients have reported significant changes in their lives and attitudes after about 40 days. Of course, I am not going to discuss the changes at this juncture (and that is why you have to try it!). There is no empirical research on this yet, but I do invite you to attempt this for the next 40 days, every night. If you do experience significant change(s), drop me a note and I will be happy to have a conversation on the framework behind this simple exercise!
Meanwhile, stay grateful.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” - Eckhart Tolle