‘Welcome to today. Another day….another chance. Feel free to change.’

Sometimes, the world makes no sense. In the newspapers over the last few weeks, various articles report on the abduction of hundreds of girls from a school in Nigeria by a group who claim that girls should not be educated in ‘Western’ ways. These girls have been taken captive and reports are suggesting they may be sold into slavery. It is beyond belief to imagine the agony they may be enduring and the horror and fear felt by their families is beyond comprehension.

I know I will most likely never have to deal with a situation where my children are abducted from school. When I think of how much care and attention our children get in schools, how brilliantly the teachers teach, how much effort is often times made, I absolutely thank my lucky stars that I have been born to live this life. Life can be hard and in Western culture this is no less true than in any other. All sorts of societal pressures and constraints are placed on people, mental health is not given the priory by government that it deserves. But when it comes down to it, our perspective on things really matters. And it’s good, for me at least, to alter mine at times.  Why is it that some people (like us) can live in relative safety while other people in other societies cannot. Why is it that our girls grow up with an absolute sense of entitlement around education while young girls in other cultures have to struggle so much for what are basic human rights? We are lucky….And while it may feel like we are all in the gutter sometimes Oscar Wilde stated so eloquently, ‘We may all be in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’. I love Oscar Wilde, I love that I have learned to read and have been educated, it has provided me with the opportunity to read and enjoy the beauty of his words. I never thought it was beyond what I deserved to be taught and to learn and it breaks my heart that it’s not something that other girls are given… the right to an education. I, for one, will look at the stars tonight and hope that those young girls in Nigeria can see them too. I hope that they can see the stars and mostly what I hope for is their safe return home soon… Hope matters. And so, to me, do each of those young girls.

When It Is Hard to Feel Grateful

When It’s Hard to Feel  Grateful…..

There are times in life when being grateful just doesn’t seem to fit well. When times are particularly tough, when someone lets you down, when the deal doesn’t go to plan, when your heart is breaking. How can people be expected to  feel grateful when terrible disappointments and hurts come into their life path?

Some people are more optimistic than others, without really having to try that hard. And it’s true that we cannot always fully choose how we feel. On days a person may feel down, they can continue to feel down no matter how much they try not to feel it. And part of that is life, because life is sometimes tough.

Can gratitude fit in on these down days or difficult times? Is it not a lot to except from a person who is dealing with loss or pain to feel grateful? Research says that it is not the feeling grateful that makes a difference to a person’s well-being, it is the effort that people make towards trying to be grateful. Making a conscious effort to cultivate an attitude of gratitude across the board is the thing that matters most when it comes to building up resilience to stress. This does not mean  feeling grateful for every single thing that happens or every situation a person finds themself in. Rather it is about adopting a position that is in alignment with gratitude. Choosing the idea of gratitude and trying throughout the day to stand close to it. People can choose to see gratitude as something to add to their daily diet, even if it is gratitude for waking to another day, gratitude for the experience of having been loved. There is nothing in that sort of attitude that denies or in any way tries to  diminish the experience  of difficult emotion.

Often with loss and hurt, the pain can be really intense and even felt very physically but there is a way to think about loss that allows space for that attitude of gratitude.  To think of the pain of the loss as bearing witness to the love that was felt or shared is a way to bear holding it. As Tennyson once said it was ‘better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ and there can be gratitude for having experienced the love that caused the pain, even if a person feels very let down or hurt. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude helps people cope with crisis situations. It builds resilience and while we cannot always choose how we feel, we can make a choice about attitude.

Adopting an attitude of gratitude rather than trying to feel grateful is a mini-habit that enhances mental health. And it’s those small, daily, mini habits that matter most when it comes to mental health.