The power of gratitude
Being grateful seems so obvious, easy, and even pleasant. Despite that, however, it is often missing from clients’ lives. Why is this, and why do we need gratitude?
It seems that we are so well-trained in noticing mistakes, moaning, and spotting things which are not quite right, that we forget to notice the things that do go right, celebrate our successes, and spontaneously express gratitude.
Being able to feel and express gratitude is very important for our well-being, and for the building of healthy relationships in our lives. Many clients will have a natural need to express their gratitude, but this is often blocked by certain beliefs or thinking patterns.
The ability to learn from failure is, of course, important, and this is what we are all taught in the education process, both in our early years, and later in adult life. What is, however, missing in that process, and where counselling can help, is recognizing what is equally and perhaps even more important, and that is noticing our successes and consciously directing our attention to the needs that were met, and the feelings that accompany that. Thinking patterns are not the only thing that will make this a challenge for clients. Our culture of consumption naturally focuses on shortfalls, because we need to be persuaded that we do not have enough, and still need to buy or achieve more in order to experience satisfaction and happiness. This can lead to much stress and anxiety.
Counselling can help clients to motivate themselves to go against the consumption culture of shortfall and get into the habit of practising gratitude. It is a bit like re-charging the gratitude batteries, which the clients can then use to cope better in difficult moments, when their thoughts stray towards what they believe is lacking. It is possible for clients to change their thinking patterns and habits, and give the same, or more, attention to their feelings, when they, for example, manage to catch a train, as they do when they fail to do so and are left standing annoyed on the platform.
Expressing gratitude can take many forms. Gratitude can be felt towards somebody who did something for the client, but also the client can learn to feel gratitude towards themselves, for something they did for themselves or others. Gratitude can even be felt for something that happened without anyone’s involvement or effort, like a sunny day, or the presence of the people that we like.
A counsellor can also help the client to see the potential for gratitude in sad and tough moments in life, for example, gratitude for when the body is free of pain, or gratitude for the support we receive in a crisis. Changing of habits requires conscious practice, and the exercising of the muscles of gratitude, but it will pay off in the long run when the clients are able to create better relationships and improve their well-being.
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