I’ve had a few weeks off the mindfulness challenge, purely because with everything else going on right now, I’ve been struggling to keep on top of things and I forgot to pick out a card from the jar each Monday. It’s annoying really, as the mindfulness challenge serves especially well for times like this! But here’s my public vow that, moving forwards, I’ll ensure that the first thing I do when I get up on a Monday is pull a weekly challenge card out of my jar and get cracking.
This week’s challenge might just be my new favourite, it was very apt for current times. This week was the week of mindful appreciation. Each day I had to notice three things that I interact with regularly, that I may not otherwise give appreciation to. I had to consider how these things work, how these things benefit the lives of myself and others and what life would be like if they didn’t exist.
Well, the first thing was the absolute easiest and quickest, most gigantic, screech it from the rooftops thing for me to be grateful for – my senses. A week or so ago I literally lost my senses (post here), and ever since they came back, I have been so grateful for everything that I can taste and smell again. Coffee (and, OK, maybe wine!) has never tasted so good. Soap has never smelt so fantastic. If you are fortunate enough to have all your senses, how often do you stop and appreciate them? I’ll be honest, aside from the occasional game – where I ask James if he absolutely had to lose a sense which one would it be, before debating on why all my senses are important and realising I want them all – I rarely think about it because I definitely take them for granted. I’ve been really focused on that this week.
Another thing I appreciate, now more than ever, is my general health. I read this week that people undergoing treatment for illnesses like cancer are being labelled ‘DNR’ – Do Not Resuscitate, if they were to be hospitalised for Coronavirus. I can’t even begin to contemplate the magnitude of this, and for fear of speaking too soon, I’m counting my blessings each day that I have generally OK health.
Whilst doing this week’s challenge, I realised that it’s the things I never actively think about, which make me realise how fortunate I am. I’m able to buy food and store it so it lasts longer, because I have electricity and a fridge/freezer. I’m able to wash my clothes and maintain good hygiene because I have a washing machine, washing powder and a supply of running water. I can watch a happy film to cheer me up when I’m down because I have a TV. I have a phone which enables me to stay in frequent contact with my family and friends. I’m able to help those less fortunate in my community because I’m physically able to go and do their shopping when they can’t leave their home. The list is endless and I’m a little ashamed to admit that whilst I’m generally grateful for all that I have, I simply never really think about the things I deem to be just there.
You might read this and think it’s easy to show appreciation when you have so much to appreciate. But the idea of this week’s challenge is that even in dire circumstances, we must find something to be grateful for, even if that something is simply that you made it through yesterday in one piece. Being mindful about the smaller things enables us to cope with the bigger things life throws our way. I’ve watched people with terminal illnesses call themselves ‘lucky’, and wondered how they can possibly feel lucky in such tragic circumstances. But I wonder now whether they’ve learnt the lesson to appreciate the small things that so many others take for granted, counting their blessings and diverting their energy to whatever good they can find, as opposed to their suffering.
I’d encourage you to think about your own circumstances, especially if things are rough for you right now, and consider what things you might be able to appreciate. Doing this doesn’t minimise your troubles or make them any less important, nor does it magically make all your problems disappear. But it does help to readjust perspective, so that in a time where perhaps it seems there is nothing good to focus on, you can find joy and gratitude in even the smallest of things.
See you next week!