There is the mighty proverb – Is fear leath builín ná bheith gan arán – Half a loaf is better than to be without bread. There is good eating, in pondering that. There is more than eating, in living it.
Do you actually count your blessings, do you measure out your attainment/awareness, do you ever take positive stock? This proverb reminds us to do so. It is not just the optimism of ‘a glass half full’ and yes that’s good in itself but here in these wise words there is a prompt to not just look on the bright side but to acknowledge actual gratitude for the portion you have.
Half a loaf or more or less, makes no difference, it is the portion present right now, there is nothing beyond that portion, you could have even less tomorrow, or much more tomorrow, but neither other outcome matters, because this portion is your reality right now. In mindfulness the present is of prime importance, is your prime concern – rather than bemoaning half a loaf, be grateful that you have sustenance now. Eat it mindfully and enjoy its enrichments.
When you are in a depression or anxiety, it is difficult to switch on a grateful mind set – you may be thinking what is there to grateful for, I am in pain, all is torment, there is no way I can muster any positive sentiment around this. Sure but you are not being asked to be grateful for your depression or stress, you are being offered the potential to find respite from your woe by stepping into a positive moment, to be grateful for the covers on your bed, the roof over your head, the breakfast you had – it may be hard to acknowledge but there are positives surrounding you even in the depths of your despair.
You can even hunt them out; I would force myself to go to a park and appreciate the trees filtering the air, even for just for my lungful of sighs, or just walk the block, even in a haze, to just get something happening other than confining myself to a room and rumination. I would also be grateful for the duvet that I pulled over my head once I got home. Today I can laugh at the thought of it but those reluctant excursions did diminish the overwhelming and continual experience of depression. No matter how small a gesture, they were some sort of positive sustenance, the half a loaf feed me.
Being thankful in a depression doesn’t disprove that you have been hurt, doesn’t lessen the sincerity of your feelings and experiences, it simply validates the good life you also deserve to experience. Amid your angst, any tiny thanks are glimmers of hope, are mechanisms of coping, are the expression of a different perspective other than total gloom and abject sorrow. Beyond your current angst and on into better times, the regular expression of gratitude or appreciation of the positive unfolding, is the building of a psychological immune system, the enhancement of your physical immune system with lowering of blood pressure and stress chemistry, and it is the door to optimism, contentment, joy, savouring, self-compassion, generosity and prosocial engagement and even more things to be grateful for.
Exercise. Today’s blessings today.
I just want you to ponder the good in today, the enrichments of now in the context of now. So, you can contemplate it in your head for a moment or you make a journal exercise of this and list all that you are grateful for today – it must be specific to today. The context is important.
So for me as I write this, I am often grateful for the roof over my head and the electricity in the sockets that keep the laptop powered and the tea or coffee coming – grateful that I get to work in comfort and enjoy all the processes and routines of it. When I am working outside there are different gratitudes. But specific to now, I am grateful for the roof as there is a strong storm brewing outside, my phone is charging in a socket so I can keep check with family and also emergency services if a tree falls or the river floods, or power-lines go down. I am grateful of my safety and relative comfort. Once upon a time I would have dreaded such a storm, fearing what might happen to loved ones – catastrophising. Now I am on a different wave length. It’s not that I am just not choosing to catastrophise, it is that I have taken positive stock, not only do I not have to climb to higher ground I know I have half a loaf in the cupboard. I know my family are safe and well and I have the means to keep in touch. There is nothing to underpin unnecessary worry.
Ok your turn. What are the gratitude beatitudes of your now?