The Power of Gratitude
No one needs a newsflash to be aware that times are unconventional. To say everything is different is an understatement. The phrase ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ takes on new meaning as we all attempt to navigate uncertainty. The words are most often attributed to Hippocrates and may have come from his work ‘Amorphisms’, in which he wrote: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable”.
Whatever you may have thought about the phrase until now, I would suggest it is a reason to hope during trying times. Times, they are a-changin’ as Bob Dylan sings. On that much, hopefully, we can agree.
This month in the Junior School, we have been reflecting on how pertinent, probably now more than ever, it is to be grateful for even the most ordinary things we have previously taken for granted. We have considered the small things we always thought would be available, but have come to be in short supply. For all the times we have run to the supermarket to pick up something just because we wanted to or because we could. Travelling long distances to visit friends and family. Enjoying each other’s company in restaurants and celebrating special events in person. And for the times we didn’t have to wear a mask to do it. The late Ruth Bader Ginsberg offers a reminder: “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”
In morning assemblies, we have been grateful for generations and people who paved the way for the life we have. As hard as life is for us, to live in a first-world country offers a relatively charmed life. We have paused to think about those who struggled to make life easier, been glad, if we can for those who have challenged us to think differently. Both the progressive trailblazers we have never met - the ones who questioned the status quo - and the ones who challenge traditional thinking today, who will shape our tomorrow.
In the eye of a pandemic, it is easy to get sucked into negativity and its quick downward spiral. Psychologists remind us that having a growth mindset can make all the difference. In our year group bubbles, we have been celebrating all the times we’ve not had enough motivation, time, energy, money or something else altogether and smiled anyway. For every time we failed and found a way to overcome and celebrate on the other side for what we learned along the way.
So, by starting with things we usually don’t notice, being glad for creature comforts, thanking people we have never met, gaining self-awareness and looking ahead with a smile, we can acknowledge gratitude as a life pillar to wellness.
Perhaps we can all identify with the following sentiment from Viktor E Frankl’s book, A Man’s Search for Meaning: “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
Head of the Abbey Junior School