Holiday season. We are stuck in traffic at a standstill on the A303. Grey cloud and rain. Kids bickering in the back. “Daft Punk”, our holiday music, blaring from the speakers in defiance of it all. We will enjoy this holiday… Holiday season. We are stuck in traffic at a standstill on the A303. Grey cloud and rain. Kids bickering in the back. “Daft Punk”, our holiday music, blaring from the speakers in defiance of it all. We will enjoy this holiday…
And then, a pause. The rain and noise stops. I notice the summer meadow flowers flourishing around the steel railings in the central reservation. Yellow and red, glinting in the sunlight - beautiful. A small moment of intense joy and pleasure. I feel happy and savour it. I promise myself to do this more.
Going on holiday is often a time of reflection. A respite from our hectic plugged-in lives. A time for optimistic, well-intentioned resolutions.
- “I will eat more healthily”.
- “I will exercise more”.
- “I will read one book a month”.
It is a space where we often take the time to stop and appreciate our surroundings and the people that we are with.
Practising gratitude is about taking the time to notice the good things in our lives that we otherwise all too often spend instead worrying and ruminating about what is wrong with it. We forget about the small things that might have brought a smile to our face or that made us feel good. Research shows that focusing on the positive helps boost us psychologically and socially.
Finding three good things each day is one way to do this. Keeping a gratitude journal, or what I prefer to call a “see the beauty in life” diary, would be another.
The idea is that, by writing down the good things that have happened - and writing them down is important - and why they made you feel happy, you start to appreciate the good things as they happen more often and dwell less on the negative.
Happiness and misery are like waves that rise and fall. Mindfulness teaches us that and as mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zin notes:
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
So doing this practice is not about clinging on to those good things, it is simply about noticing them and appreciating them.
A patient of mine recently agreed to start anti-depressant medication when at crisis point. The fog he had been under for 35 years was finally lifted and he has been amazed at the beauty in everyday life. It is wonderful to see. We have talked about the ebb and flow of emotions. He is cognisant of the dips, yet now sees them for what they are, and for the first time since he can remember, he notices and appreciates the good things too.
The good things don’t need to be of great significance. It is simply about noticing the small things that we usually just take for granted. A conversation that makes you feel uplifted, or makes you laugh. The birds singing in the trees. The light at a particular time of day.
This is clearly easier to do when on holiday, when we have less “must-do” things clamoring for our attention, and we have more time to be curious. I constantly struggle with going slow, and keeping myself in the present, so my promise to myself on this holiday is to take notice and to bring this into my day-to-day life when at home.
So here goes, my “Three Good Things” from today are:
- Listening to @sueperkins on Desert Island Discs - her wit and song choices made me smile.
- The flowers in the central reservation in a brief moment of sunlight - soft natural beauty in the middle of steel and fumes.
- Seeing a Nespresso machine in the holiday cottage we have rented...
What are yours?
I will be writing more on mindfulness, being and appreciating the now in further blogs.
Dr Kate Little MBChB MRCP MRCGP DRCOG DFFP Dip Teaching.
Clinical Champion for Physical Activity, Public Health England
Clinical Lead for NHS GP Health service
Founder of Physician Burnout UK
Founder of Horsley Hub