Being Grateful - WP Blog

Being Grateful for Gratitude

A Virtuous Cycle

You’re probably familiar with the term ‘vicious cycle’.

These cycles can occur even when gentleness is intended. Here’s an example: we decide to be kinder in our self-dialogue and avoid being hypercritical when we make a mistake. Sounds good, until we notice that we’re being hypercritical and then react by heaping criticism on ourselves for failing to be kinder!

In my most recent book, The Gratitude Prescription: Harnessing the Power of Thankfulness for Healing and Happiness, I liken this circular functioning of the mind to a dog chasing its tail.

This is a deliberate choice of metaphor, for it expresses both the potential perpetuity of such circular movement and how we might respond; we would likely laugh and enjoy the dog’s innocence and enthusiasm. We are unlikely to kick the dog or berate it for being so stupid. It’s probably hard to imagine saying to the dog, ‘You are 8 years old now! You should know that’s not going to be successful! Idiot!’. Yet we may frequently experience self-dialogues of similar (or greater) harshness. When our inner critic is on the attack, one strategy is having a laugh at the silly circularity of it, gently refusing to take thought or ourselves too seriously. In my experience, this may diffuse, soften and end the vicious circle. Learning to laugh at myself, at my thoughts, has been a powerful practise.

Here’s a practice for playing with a “virtuous circle”. It’s very simple, and I’ve found it much more enjoyable than engaging in a vicious cycle:

Take a deep breath. Notice how you are feeling. Choose 3 things in your life right now and deliberately feel appreciation for their presence. (Writing this down with pen and paper is ideal, but typing or simply thinking will also work.)

Now, take another deep breath. Again, notice how you feel. Appreciate gratitude. Feel grateful for this awesome state-shifter, this beautiful heart-opening, heart-warming and mind-quieting practice.
Observe, too, that you have this awesome tool called “gratitude” that can simply and effectively shift your mood and feeling. Feel grateful for gratitude. Feel grateful for feeling grateful for feeling grateful! That’s a virtuous circle.

My gratitude expands when I notice I cannot feel depressed and grateful at the same time. It deepens further when I reflect that my brain’s neuroplasticity means I not only feel better now, but with practice I’ll find it easier to feel grateful in future. Just as every run or press-up makes the next effort easier, so it is with gratitude. No effort is wasted.

Thank you.

Will Pye

➠ For a deeper dive into transformation through gratitude enjoy Will’s second book The Gratitude Prescription; Harnessing The Power of Thankfulness for Healing and Happiness –

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