As we say goodbye to 2019, by far the hardest year of my life to date, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude. Each of the personal and professional mountains I have needed to negotiate in the last year have left me with many more things to be grateful for than losses or regrets.
The big things I am grateful for include you guys; the Onlinepethealth Vetrehabber community, which has grown and pulled together in ways over the last year that almost brings tears to my eyes! Each one of us has such a passion for what we do, and our hearts are overflowing with love to give. It is one of the biggest blessings of my year to see colleagues pulling together in support and solidarity, sharing their love, passion and ideas, and brainstorming together in a positive and constructive way.
A sense of gratitude does not always come naturally or easily, and as I read up about it, I am struck by some hard truths.
Gratitude is central to happiness
Feeling grateful overrides feelings of overwhelm, depression, confusion or self-pity. It takes our focus off of ourselves and brings our focus onto those around us, which has huge benefits for our mental health, wellbeing, and relationships.
Many of us suffer from feelings of depression, anxiety, confusion, self-doubt, self-pity – the list is endless. The side effects of these feelings are huge, affecting our work, our family and our health in the worst possible way. Gratitude has been shown to reverse these feelings, changing our thinking patterns and fostering positive and constructive relationships, greater productivity, beneficial health practices, and our overall sense of happiness.
Most importantly, gratitude can be practised, which means we have a tangible tool with which to deal with our destructive emotions and thoughts on a day-to-day basis.
Gratitude is central to relationships
Our jobs as Vetrehabbers are all about relationships; relationships with our referring vets, our colleagues and staff, our clients and patients, our families and, of course, with our pets. All relationships take a little strain from time to time and can be strengthened and improved by practicing gratitude.
Focus on reasons to be grateful for that person; find specific things that they have done, said or demonstrated, and focus on feeling grateful for those things. Once you sense a stirring of gratitude, make sure you express it. It is the expressing of gratitude that really boosts the happiness levels! So express thanks for the little things people do; pick up on the aspects that might be overlooked, perhaps complimenting someone on the way they handled a situation, the patience they displayed under duress – anything that shows you noticed and appreciated the person.
The expression of gratitude opens up some really good opportunities to get creative, and although I know this takes us off on a tangent, I’d love to plant a seed. Consider bringing gratitude into your daily systems and operations, thinking of ways to turn your gratitude into talk triggers with your clients, or ways in which you can incorporate gratitude into your veterinary referral systems, or into interactions between colleagues in your practice. Just consider the implications of making gratitude a core policy in your business! My mind immediately leaps to teams that help each other out and run more smoothly, a light and happy working dynamic, team members who see great value in one another, and employees who feel recognized and appreciated. When gratitude is made central, all of these things become possible.
Gratitude fosters gratitude
As with all things in life, the more we practise, the better we become! As we discipline ourselves to start looking for things to be grateful for, and immerse ourselves in that sense of gratitude, we will continue to find more and more things to be grateful for every day. And so gratitude grows inside of us, and naturally spreads to those around us.
Every time we express gratitude and find more things to be grateful for, we lighten someone else’s day and life just a little. That’s a worthy pursuit, if you ask me.
Here are some really simple ways to get started on making gratitude a part of our daily life and who we are:
- It’s in the little things. Practise looking for the smallest good things that happen every day.
- Express your gratitude to those around you; be specific and clear on what it is you are grateful for and appreciate about them.
- Treasure your relationships with friends and family.
- Look for and hand out smiles as often as you can.
- Surround yourself with people, music, and media that is positive and uplifting.
- Meditate on your feeling of gratitude – foster and hold onto that feeling every day.
- Write down or journal the things you are grateful for, and grow the list every day.
- Volunteer your time and money to organizations that help others.
- Don’t take anything for granted; be grateful for everything, as we are entitled to nothing.
- Embrace your challenges and use them as an opportunity to grow.
There are so many things in this world over which we have no control and that we cannot change. What we do have control over is ourselves, and the impact that we have on the world around us. By practicing gratitude, we not only change our own lives, but start to bring changes in the lives of those around us. We start to change the world for the better.