As ConsciousCafe Geneva ended 2018 with a Festive Finale last night I take a moment to reflect on the past year. We have had cafes on diverse themes such as Love; Wisdom; Time; Identity, Nationality and Nationalism; and yesterday Gratitude. We have been guided by inspirational speakers : Bonnie Fatio and “The Gifts I Give to the World”; Diana Ritchie on “Conscious Living through Sophrology”; Jane Bailey Bain on “Creating Your Own Life Story”; and Chris Burton on “Pivotal Moments that Shape Us”. We also had the great pleasure of having our Founder, Judy Piatkus, join us for a very special evening with “Two Inspirational Women”. On each occasion our ConsciousCafes have lived up to their purpose, bringing people together to connect through conscious conversation and the profound interaction between strangers has been heart-warming and uplifting. It reveals the beautiful best of humanity. Each cafe has helped me to expand my ideas about the world and learn from the wisdom of others. I now count our regulars as good friends. All of these things I appreciate.
So how appropriate that we closed the year talking about gratitude before we partied a little. I shared some of the research that suggests that gratitude can affect us emotionally by lowering depression, stress and other toxic feelings, and by increasing self-esteem and fostering mental strength. It seems that being thankful can also have a positive impact on us physically with studies showing links to improved sleep, lower blood pressure, better immunity and healthier hearts. So our first conversation revolved around our reaction to this research and sharing whether and how we experience gratitude in our own lives. One woman’s words helped me to realise that when I say thanks for a glorious day/sky/event/friend it anchors me more fully in the present moment.
We then looked at ways to experience more gratitude, in particular we tried out an exercise called “Three Good Things” where you write down three good experiences you had that day, even quite ‘simple’ ones, and how they made you feel. As I watched people share their notes I saw their faces illuminate as they remembered, relived and felt again the magic moments they had experienced that day. Things as simple as waking to snow, remembering a special hug, lunch with friends, the uplifting feelings that came from an exercise class. We realised that by taking this moment to reflect back on the day we appreciated events more fully. Incidents in time that would otherwise have passed by and perhaps not been long remembered. Some people write these daily memories on a slip of paper, pop them in a jar then give themselves the New Year gift of reading them at the end of the year. Forgotten moments are reawakened. Some years ago my husband gave me a ’gratitude rock’ which I still have, clasp when I pass it, and give brief silent thanks for my blessings. I shared this idea by giving everyone their own rock to keep, and we had our closing meditation holding them. Everyone chose their stone carefully – it’s important they feel just right in the palm of your hand!!
Studies state that cultivating gratitude does not necessarily reduce seeing the negative features of life – “people have no trouble seeing the bad stuff” – but it encourages us to acknowledge the good things and thereby open ourselves to the potential boost that saying thanks can give to our mind and body health.
What were you grateful for today?
9 Powerful Ways Gratitude can Change your Life : Amy Morin
Can Gratitude be Good for your Heart? Paul J Mills & Laura Redwine
Our discussion group in Geneva is led by Debbie King, former Chief Probation Officer and Counsellor.