January can be a tough month. The bright celebrations of Christmas and New Year are a dull memory, leaving a hangover of credit card bills. Days are typically short, wet and cold, with January 24 claimed – somewhat spuriously – to be Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. As if that wasn’t enough to get you down, there’s the knowledge that Donald Trump will be inaugurated on January 20. Did I say the idea of Blue Monday was spurious? Maybe not this year!
January isn’t my favourite month and I’ve been sensing the gloom. One thing that’s been helpful is focusing on how much I have to be grateful for. If you’re reading this, you probably have a home and a computer. That’s pretty lucky! Less than half the people in the world have internet access, 1.2 billion don’t have electricity and 100 million are homeless. I don’t want to add to the gloom, but to try to focus your mind on all that we have to be grateful for. I know it’s easy to take things for granted, but gratitude can be hugely beneficial.
Gratitude is good for you: it helps lower blood pressure, promotes positive emotions and helps you feel more alive. But gratitude is also great for those around you: grateful people are more helpful, generous, forgiving and compassionate.
The classic tool for building the gratitude habit is to keep a daily journal about all the blessings that come your way. Simply note how you feel about those minor miracles, joyous everyday events or precious people in your life. You might also try my Gratitude Meditation. It’s quick enough to do every morning and it feels really good, so won’t be a chore.
It’s an unusual meditation as you keep your eyes open and there’s some gentle movement involved. It’s great for everyone, but especially useful if you’re feeling a bit down or depressed. The Gratitude Meditation I present on my website is the core practice, but it can be usefully adapted to specific circumstances. I’ve used it outdoors as a way of giving thanks for the beauty and abundance of the natural world. I’ve also adapted it to give thanks for specific blessings like a new job or healing an old wound. I’ve also used it as part of a grieving process. Once I was past the raw pain of losing my brother, I wanted to give thanks for all that he meant to me and for all that his life had given to the world. Trust me; gratitude heals.