Making Gratitude Grow Within You

I have been feeling so lucky, feeling such gratitude! It would be easy to think about the things that didn’t go the way I wanted, but it is even easier to build a sense of gratitude within your heart and mind. How so?

There are clusters of emotions that seem to grow together – something for further consideration on this site – and I have been trying to practice compassion, both for others and for myself. As I am kinder to myself, I notice a gentleness within my reactions to self. Don’t misunderstand, I have never said hostile things to myself. Negative self-talk like that has never been me, but what I have done is critique the quality of my work and always seek to do better. Sometimes, you just need to congratulate yourself and enjoy the fruits of your efforts!

An example? I was on the train about a month ago and I was mentally pushing myself to do even better at the things I was attempting. Suddenly, I stepped back in my mind and thought – “I am in New Zealand! I always wanted to travel the world and I have done it! I have three countries that are home! I have three passports! I have seen some of the most beautiful parts of the world! I have five university degrees and I am about to go to Adelaide to start my sixth degree!” If you had told me these sorts of things were possible when I was 20, I would have doubted it possible. Instead of taking joy in what I have accomplished, I was sitting there imagining how I could do better. This is a recipe for a lack of satisfaction in life and possibly very self-destructive moods.

As I thought these things, I tuned into the man across from me on the train. He was talking on his mobile phone in German. I understood him. It was something not terribly exciting that he was discussing – a recent trip to Australia. As I listened to him, I remembered how I had arrived in West Berlin in 1989, only able to say “Ja” and “Guten Tag”. Thirty years later, my German isn’t too bad (I understand a fair bit, but don’t get a lot of options to practice in Aotearoa New Zealand). This was something else in which I could take pride – remembering that 22 year old, and how impressed he would be of his later self.

From these efforts to be kinder and more acknowledging of myself have grown other attempts, such as thanking the people whose actions were intended to hurt me, but which gave me the opportunity to develop this life, with all of its fullness. Those people would have honestly held me back and I was able to feel gratitude for their actions. These sorts of thoughts set us free.

So, yes – compassion and gratitude are overflowing in my heart at this moment. It is a wonderful feeling. Our reactions are within our reach. As the concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (in Man’s Search for Meaning). You have the last of human freedoms – to choose your path.

That your evolving narratives will bring you strength and joy!

Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns
Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns

Well-Being in Positive Psychology

I purchased and read Martin Seligman’s, “Authentic Happiness” when I was a student counsellor. I was not impressed. Yes, I was interested in Positive Psychology as a shift of interest away from the “problems” (and more medical) model that had been the emphasis of psychology since the 19th Century. Yes, I wanted to see an emphasis on the “good life” (which was also the emphasis of the earliest Greek philosophers), but what I couldn’t accept was “happiness” as a motivation in and of itself. Things, events, relationships, accomplishments and other interactions can lead to feelings of “happiness”, but looking for happiness will always be illusive, because it is not a thing in itself (it is also completely subjective). Martin has understood the flaw in this approach and has revised his theory to make “well-being”, rather than happiness, the goal of Positive Psychology.

Martin, in his book “Flourish”, says that well-being is analogous to weather. Weather is not a thing in and of itself, but is a concept (or “construct”) which includes more basic elements, such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc. Well-being is a comparable construct, in that it is composed of elements (some more subjective than others). These elements for Martin, include:

Positive emotion (happiness and life satisfaction are aspects)
Engagement
Relationships
Meaning and purpose
Accomplishment
Martin refers to this as PERMA and says, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. Some aspects of these five elements are measured subjectively by self-report, but other aspects are measured objectively.” (Source, Accessed 29 August 2018)

As I read “Flourish”, I began to imagine these elements within one’s work. This site is about the application of these elements (and psychology more generally) to work and creative endeavours.