Gratitude

3 Things I Learned This Week and The Weekend Rewind

Hello and welcome.to an out-of-the-ordinary Friday night blog post.  

Last week I received a lovely surprise email from Bron at Maxabella Loves asking me if I would like to be the guest co-host of The Weekend Rewind this week, along with regular hosts Bron, Kelly from A Life Less Frantic and Sonia from Love Life and Hiccups.  

Would I what?

So if you're dropping in here for the first time via TWR, welcome! It's so lovely to meet you.  It's a wonderful, friendly and supportive community that these fab ladies have created, don't you think?

In the spirit of rewind and reflection (and because reflection is critical to self-improvement and that's the kind of stuff I bang on about around here) I thought that tonight I'd share the three things I learned this week.

1. Getting out of the groove with thanks to the footy

I'm quite a fan of routine (most of the time) and there are a lot of benefits to routine for goals and wellbeing but every so often I need to get all Taylor and shake it off.  So last weekend hubby, the boys and I packed a picnic, caught the train into Melbourne and went to the footy.

We took the train rather than the car because it allows us to sit together in a pod of four facing seats.  We talked, we read and we chatted to other passengers.  We lingered in the early spring sunshine on the walk from the train station to the Stadium. We enjoyed the buzzy football crowd and once in our seats, perched high above the action, we mostly thrilled in watching Mr 7 excitedly point out all of his favourite players, beside himself at the knowledge that he was actually at the real live football with his heroes there, in the flesh.  Kids' excitement is infectious, isn't it?

While walking back to the station after the match, with the afternoon sun turning the Melbourne skyline shades of gold and bronze I had a moment of gratitude; gratitude for my family, for the beautiful city that I grew up in, for the fabulous family event that is the AFL, for the proximity of our beautiful regional home town to big city events, for the buskers playing jazz, even for the train service.  There's a lot of unhappiness in the world and it's easy to get absorbed in it.  A break from routine and an afternoon at the footy reminded me that I'm a lucky girl. 

Melbourne looking pretty in the late afternoon sun.

Melbourne looking pretty in the late afternoon sun.

2. Friends trump networks because networks don't deliver cake

I learnt something else this week and it also involved gratitude, and cake.

As someone who identifies as an introvert networking doesn't come easily. Not in the 'let's get a bunch of strangers together in sterile conference room and force them to make small talk with each other' kind of way anyway. But as I've worked for myself for 13 years and my work comes from referral, making contacts to build a 'network' is a skill that I've learned. Or at least I thought I had.

This week I had a networking epiphany, delivered in the form of a huge and delicious slice of chai-spiced cake with whipped white chocolate and orange ganache, a gorgeous little bottle of homemade Elderflower cordial and some cultured butter. These gorgeous goodies arrived on my doorstep thanks to the lovely Liv from Better Than a Bought One.  Liv is a local food blogger and wonderful cook.  We met through the Clever Cookie School of Blog.  We talked online long before we met in person. Liv is now a friend.

When this wonderful cake arrived, providing me with much needed sustenance on a serious big-client-report-deadline day, I mused on the connection between Liv and I, and I realised that every person with whom I have connected professionally, either as blogger or a psychologist, and with whom I have maintained a connection, is also a friend.  

It occurred to me that building a network of people around you - for professional or personal reasons - is about cultivating a group of friends, not anything as sterile or self serving as a 'network' sounds.  Having a group of professional friends who value each others' expertise and help each other out even if there's no obvious or direct benefit is what working well is all about.  It makes work and business a whole lot easier, and sometimes you get cake.

Yum! You must visit Liv's blog at  Better Than a Bought One  for more deliciousness and some beautiful foodie photos.

Yum! You must visit Liv's blog at Better Than a Bought One for more deliciousness and some beautiful foodie photos.

3. Parenting on the path of least resistance (or why my son wore his footy gear to school, again)

We had the school Book Week parade this week; the week after Book Week. I don't know why.  

Mr 7 went dressed as Wallaby player Israel Folau.  Last year for Book Week he went dressed as Sydney Swans player Buddy Franklin. 

Mr 7 has largely insisted on wearing a football outfit of one code or another to every single school dress up event in the almost two years that he has attended school. Sometimes there is even loose connection between his outfit and the theme.

When this first started I was agitated.  Surely we should find a costume that conveys our interesting and varied family literary interests?  We read many, many books.  We could choose Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne, Roald Dahl, Hairy Maclary.... I made suggestions and offered ideas.  I nagged and cajoled.  

Then I realised that it wasn't about me.  It was about him.  He loves football.  He also loves to read. Mostly books about football. It turns out that there are actually some rather good children's books about football.  Including books co-authored by Israel Folau

This reminded me that parenting is often about picking your battles and sometimes travelling the path of least resistance.  I was getting agitated about Book Week costumes but the agitation was all mine.  It was up to me to change my thinking about the situation. Mr 7 just wanted to wear a football outfit to school.  So he did, and he rocked it. 

Now it's time for the link up! Add your post, pour yourself a drink and read up on the latest and greatest from Australian blogging. And tell me, what have you learned this week?

P.S. Gratuitous self promotion here with a little piece of mine published on ProBlogger this week: How to Write Brilliant Blog Posts: 5 Tips from Psychology

Say thanks, feel good. Gratitude for managers of the big and the small.

Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary
— Margaret Cousins, author

My six year old son is becoming quite the little helper (okay, sometimes, when he wants to be). He will fetch shoes, baby wipes, toys, my phone, whatever is required while I physically wrangle his not-always-so-helpful two year old brother.  When this happens I try very hard to thank him and show him that I appreciate his help.  I know that as a parent positive reinforcement works and I generally find that he squirms with pride at my praise.

Managing people at work is not much different to being a parent.  We're just managing big people rather than little people and sometimes those big people don't act much more grown up than the little ones. 

But as managers of big people we can forget, as we do with our kids, to thank them and appreciate their efforts when they exceed our expectations. Even when the ordinary everyday tasks are getting done with ordinary everyday efficiency there is a lot to be said for being appreciative and saying thanks. 

Gratitude (being thankful and ready to show appreciation) is a hot topic in positive psychology with plenty of research in the past ten years showing a strong and consistent association between being grateful and being happy. That means that when we take the time out to consciously consider the good things we have in our lives, including the people who help us out, we're more likely to feel happier not just at the time but for some months ahead. 

What's more, getting into the gratitude habit can do the following good stuff: 

  • Increase your brain activity  
  • Reduce your stress and anxiety
  • Improve your sleep
  • Increase your overall sense of wellbeing
  • Enhance your relationships with other people (particularly those people you thank), and
  • Increase your sense of responsibility to other people and to society at large.  Basically, it makes you a better person.

Of course if you are managing other people - whether big or small - you may also find that they are more motivated and more productive when you thank them for their good work.  It's that positive reinforcement thing again.

Thankyou
So what can you do to become the uber-grateful people manager and all round happier person?
  • Practice! Make a conscious effort to thank one person a day. Have a go - try it now.  If there's no-one around, think of one thing that you are thankful for today and make a note of it.  Feel the happy.
  • Be specific.  Saying 'thanks for doing such a great job' can just feel a bit awkward.  Try thanking someone for the exact thing that they did and tell them how it made your life better.
  • Be genuine.  We can all pick a phony and you only get out what you put in.  Happiness comes to those who are truly grateful.  
  • Be fast.  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and get into the habit of thanking people right then and there when good stuff gets done.
  • If you're on the receiving end of thanks, be gracious. Don't brush it off.  Smile and say thanks in return.  Now you both feel good.

Feeling thankful, and expressing it, has an amazing capacity to flip our point of view around from humdrum to happy.  Go ahead, thank someone for making your life easier and see if you can't make a big person squirm with pride, even just a little bit.

What are you thankful for?  You might like to post it here: Thankfulfor.com Or tell me about it in the comments below.  (P.S. Thanks for reading to the end! E.)