One bit in chapter one of Kerry Howells’ (2012) book Gratitude in Education: A radical view that stood out for me:
For gratitude to be effective we need to see it “as more than something that makes us feel good or reminds us of how good we have it… To reach into the true nature of gratitude, we need to engage with it through action, and discover an embodied understanding through our lived experience, our connectedness to the other”.
I already try to practice gratitude during my morning meditations or journaling. Almost every time I reflect on what I feel grateful for, I include my PhD. That is because it takes up most of my time and energy right now, hence if there’s any stress or anxiety in my life, it usually came from something PhD-related. I try to use gratitude as a way to counteract these negative emotions. When I want to feel grateful, I first tell myself, it could have been worse. Then I imagine what worse would look or feel like i.e. if whatever situation or thing didn’t happen or exist in my life – what lessons or opportunities for growth would I have missed out on, or how much more inconvenient my life would have been without something.
I sort of expect after these reflections I’ll feel awesome and be excited to get started on the day. However, sometimes that doesn’t happen. I feel grateful that I’ve given myself time and allowed myself to reflect on what I’m grateful for, however sometimes there is still some resistance where the stress of anxiety is still there but diminished. Better if they can be completely gone right?
If I try to apply what that quote from the book is saying. I need to take some kind of action that reflects that gratitude. I think firstly, I could add something to my process of practicing gratitude; and that is to see my PhD as a gift. Maybe my gratitude process already implies that my PhD is a gift. But the word “gift” doesn’t appear in my reflections. I wonder if this is linked to neuro-linguistic programming, where word choice is important because of the visuals and emotions it evokes. A gift means that there is a giver e.g. the universe, the university, my supervisor who has given me this opportunity to grow. It’s not just me anymore.
Next taking action. How can I express my gratitude to the giver? Perhaps I could see my PhD work as my repayment to the givers because it’ll be useful (I hope) to them and to the world (I hope too). This reminds me of a directive from Derek Sivers (someone I look to for life advice and insights), “Be useful to others”. If I want to be useful, I’ll want to do a good job. If I really want to do a good job, I’ll get cracking! Is it that easy though? I might be missing something but we’ll see…
p.s. obviously, I named my blog wrongly. Oops!
Howells, K. (2012). Gratitude in Education.