Reasons to be cheerful

By Gudrun Cartwright

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Reasons to be cheerful

In my life, I find it so easy to dwell on what’s wrong. To angst over the small things. But if I actually stop and reflect on what is good about life, there’s a lot to be thankful for. So, following up my ‘reasons to be fearful’ post, I want to rebalance the energy by turning my attention to why I often feel positive and optimistic. These may not all apply to you, but would love to hear if you have other thoughts to add.

1. I’m here

This may sound trite, but people I have known and loved are not. Some have only a few short months or years. Even for those who lived long, productive lives, time on earth can feel short at the end. Having worked as a nurse in A&E and palliative care, I know how quickly life can be gone, sometimes with little or no warning. To get philosophical, the chance of even being born a healthy human has odds of millions to one. So, just being here is an amazing opportunity and we should relish every moment.

2. I am pain free

In day to day life, we take our health so much for granted. It’s not until something goes wrong with our bodies that we realise that we are not invincible. That if we break them, they may not heal. As someone with arthritis, I am reminded each time I get a flare up that pain is part of life and am grateful for each day I am pain free.

3. I live a life of privilege

Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, I live a privileged life. I am reasonably affluent, have my own home, a good job that is interesting and makes a difference. I live in a country with good infrastructure, rule of law and public services. Each day I am reminded by the news of how difficult some people’s lives are. How little you need to have in the west to be rich beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world’s population. That I am safe, secure and able to live beyond scrabbling to meet my basic needs. Have people in my life I love and who love me. Have time and headspace to think, dream and learn. To free up my creativity and work to fulfil my potential. To travel, enjoy food, relaxation, entertainment. Many small things add up to a whole lot to be thankful for.

4. It’s my choice

It’s funny how we can so often feel like a victim of circumstance. That life is not good when, in fact, it is. That we can’t exercise agency. A gnawing feeling of anxiety. While these may be well worn pathways, the truth is that we can choose our response to life’s events, even when they are difficult. As Viktor Frankl shares of his experience in the Nazi death camps, in the midst of horror, terror and death, you can choose how you respond to it. You can dream. You can focus on your own thoughts and behaviours, rather than others. You can focus on what you can give, rather than what you are receiving. To hear that from someone who has suffered more than we can imagine, is humbling. When I reflect on how I respond to mere trifles by comparison, I realise that I can choose differently. I can focus on what I do. How I behave. How I think and feel. I can change from the inside out. Developing a steadier inner core that measures my feelings of wealth, worth and wellbeing through my own standards is in my gift. It’s not easy, but nor is being tossed about on life’s choppy waters. Taking small steps everyday will make a difference.

5. Each day is a chance to reset

Some days are crappy. I can be grumpy, gossipy, defensive, lazy or greedy, to name a few of my faults. It is easy to beat yourself up and focus on what you did wrong. How you didn’t like your behaviour. That you let yourself down. Again. But noticing when you do things that you don’t like is the first step of learning and growing. Stopping it there and then is the second. Noticing when you are tempted and choosing differently is the third. Giving yourself credit when you were your best self. Remembering that we are human and we all slip up. Being kind to yourself when you do. Resetting after a difficult day. The cycle of acting, reflecting, rewarding and resetting is the glue that holds growth together. It can be hard. But we can do it and the potential rewards are immense. We can put our best foot forward every morning. If we slip during the day that’s OK. By starting with a positive intention we will learn and grow. Repeat these patterns and over time we can become who we want to be.

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