How to be grateful and happy when surrounded by stress

There have been a few things on my mind to write about this month but the one that keeps coming to the front of my mind is remembering to be grateful. It really has to be that in the light of recent events in Ukraine. I’ve heard it said many times that to be grateful for something every day is beneficial to our mental health. When we look for the positive around us it allows us to see possibility and hope. It opens our mind to letting good feelings in. Happiness has been shown to increase in studies where people were practicing being grateful for something in their lives and acknowledging it.

Humans are programmed to have a negative bias, by that I mean we notice more negative things on balance than positive ones. Our brain is wired to protect us so that makes perfect sense. It isn’t the best for our mental health though to keep worrying and stressing particularly over things we cannot change.

There are a few things we can do to help the Ukrainians from our position here in the UK. I have given what I can to The Red Cross and IAWF. I believe there are a number of people organising various collections of donated items too but there are too many to mention. There is also a Disasters Emergency Committee set up which liaises with quite a few registered charities and is government backed so they will add to the funds too. I noticed today there is a Ukrainian Equestrian Federation charity trying to organise supplies to get to horses trapped there.

I want to help as I’m sure you do, but we each have limits to our time and finances so try not to beat yourself up for that. We also have an increased financial burden in our lives due to the rising cost of living. Fuel prices may yet go up a lot more, we will have to wait and see. There are costs rising everywhere and most of us have horses to keep which are not cheap.

There was a good example of negative bias running away with me! It’s so easy to go from one thing to another adding more negative points because they are real and they are valid worries. I wouldn’t suggest we should forget about them or not bring them up, it is important for us to do our part as a global community. We are all affected by this and we do best when we come together as a team.

I am suggesting that when you have done your moral duty and given what you can, if you can, that you take a moment each day to really appreciate what is good in your life without feeling bad about it. Sometimes it’s easy to come up with an answer, I can feel grateful for many things right now in comparison to what others are going through of course. Other times it might be harder to see, and then you need to look deeper and longer until you find something. It might sound a bit of a fluffy thing to do if you have a personality which is more of a practical ‘get on and do’ nature, but it’s amazing how it can turn your attention to the little things that we might take for granted.

We had the reminder in lockdown to not overlook the simple pleasures we had not appreciated fully. Now we have a war in another country to remind us we are lucky to have our freedom. There are tough times for all of us which we are allowed to moan about, we don’t need to keep our feelings hidden but just remember to stop for a moment each day and appreciate something. It will make you more equipped to deal with the rest of the day.

I have some interesting conversations with my son who's in his twenties. Last week he was quite annoyed with me because I wasn't stressing as much as him about the news. He assumed that I didn't care, but I explained that stress is not an indicator of how much I care. I can care and be functional in my everyday life. My personal experiences of stress have taught me that it's ok to be able to take a little time out to destress and even be happy. In fact I would say essential. I need to sleep at night and be useful the next day. 

There’s a saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ so recharge yourself and be happy. You will be more useful to others if you look after yourself.