Led by – Dr Julia Ronder, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist/Community Paediatrician, Certified Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher
Theme – “Building Resilience through Gratitude and Appreciation”
This talk/workshop set the scene for a day of silence for a group of 19 health professionals/those in caring roles held at The Quiet View, Kingston, near Canterbury, Kent.
Why are gratitude and appreciation linked with resilience? I recently heard about a programme Duke Healthcare is offering from their patient safety unit. Health professionals are asked about three good things that have happened that day. There is a gratitude wall for patients and staff in the coronary care unit. Staff and carers can attend resilience training.
Generally, research on gratitude shows an association with greater socialisation, better mental and physical health, better self-esteem, sleep, empathy, resilience and less PTSD. Wow!
So how to practice it, and make it real (not just something we do with our ‘head’)?
We tried two exercises taught in the Mindful Self-Compassion course (Germer and Neff, 2013). The first involves thinking of everyday objects/things we may normally overlook but for which we are grateful. Ideas and gratitude’s flowed readily. There was general agreement that doing this enhances mood. We then moved on to look at Self-Appreciation… (It is often harder to look inside ourselves), for a quality we really appreciate. However, this becomes easier when we think about who helped us with this quality, who we can thank for this quality (our inherited genetics, our upbringing, a teacher, life experience). Realising that we are connected to others helps us to feel less alone, and aware of what we are receiving / have received.
Gratitude letters have also been shown to increase long-term happiness. This involves writing and potentially giving a letter of gratitude to somebody we have not previously thanked.
Before going into silence, I shared the practice of a ‘Sense and Savour Walk’ (again, taught in the Mindful Self-Compassion Course). The gardens at The Quiet View provide a perfect opportunity for this. Walking slowly, stopping to take time to notice any small attraction and really linger on it; birdsong, a small petal, a fragrant flower. Really focusing on it, and taking the time to enjoy and appreciate it. So often we rush past the present moment. This practice helps us to anchor in the present moment and appreciate what we are receiving in terms of the beauty around us. My experience is that this practice can also be extended to our interactions with others, taking the time to appreciate the efforts and qualities of others.
And so we then entered a period of three and a half hours of silence. During this time participants were free to wander the gardens, walk the labyrinth, sit in the yurt, meditate, pray, read, paint, and rest. We shared our lunch in silence. Eating slowly and mindfully, with a sense of gratitude transforms my experience of eating, and I promise myself I will do this more often.
My own day was filled with abundant gratitude for the opportunity to lead such an amazing group on this topic. I love silence, making my best decisions in silence, letting go of worries, and feeling connected to a great source of strength.
Feedback at the end involved space as a group to softly emerge from silence and to share any experiences if people wished.
So is ‘counting your blessings’ a trite panacea? I’d suggest it is a deep practice which can enhance our resilience, joy and well-being.
Dr J Ronder