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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Summer 2019

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COUNSELLING THE

COUNSELLING THE CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE SIMON ROLPH MSWA COUNSELLOR If you try googling ’benefits of gratitude’, like I have just done, you will likely find over 69 million results with multiple lists of proven benefits. Whilst the information available is plentiful, the reality of being grateful can, however, be challenging. Gratitude is having the ability to focus on what is good in our lives and being thankful for the things we have. When life is rosy and stresses few and far between, it can be much easier to take this approach. When the stresses become overwhelming and life is more stormy than rosy, being grateful can be challenging. Include the most recent political crisis or global climate issues, and we can easily take a negative attitude towards our lives and the world we live in. When life is hard, telling people to count their blessings and be grateful for what they have can be particularly unhelpful. Gratitude is not ignoring the existence of our own individual difficulties with an attempt to only focus on the positives. No amount of positive thinking will take away the reality that life can be hard and incredibly painful at times. But dwelling only on the hardships of life can be equally unhelpful. An approach of gratitude can be helpful by providing balance and perspective to our attitude on life. It is both acknowledging the bad, but also reminding ourselves of what is good; what we can be thankful for. It can help us reframe loss as a possible gain, mistakes as life lessons, obstacles into opportunities. A reminder of what is still available to us. Some people naturally find it easier to take a grateful attitude. Others find it much harder. Fortunately, gratitude is something we can intentionally practise to help counteract the negative bias our minds frequently have. Visit positivepsychology.com/gratitudeexercises to find 13 popular gratitude activities and exercises with additional information and resources on gratitude. Gratitude isn’t the magical answer to life’s problems, but it can be a wonderful attitude to choose and call upon to both enhance our experience of life when times are good, and to support us when times are hard. If you want to learn more about gratitude and how to develop a more flexible and helpful attitude towards yourself and life, you can contact the MSWA Counselling department on 9365 4836 to organise a referral to one of our tertiary trained counsellors. 14

MSWA MEMBER JUST DO IT Sometimes I need to be kept in check. Sometimes I need to be made accountable, to answer to someone. Otherwise I can be a completely lazy, lay-about slouch who never does anything except read, drink tea and look at social media on my computer. My friend Kathleen told me she was embarking on a rigid diet and exercise regime, which involves getting up each morning and doing a physical workout before breakfast. I have for a long time, (and I mean decades!) thought that I could benefit from some daily exercise. I’ve thought it. Physiotherapists have told me. Friends and family have suggested it. Up until now I’ve always taken the approach that “it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?” and never got past thinking about it. But Kathleen inspired me. I decided I would start getting up each day and doing some exercise on the Pilates reformer that I have in my spare room. We decided that each morning we would send each other a message when we have done our exercise, to keep each other on track. Kathleen calls this project JFDI, which stands for Just Friggin’ Do It! So, each morning, after doing my exercise, I send her a text message saying something like “JFDI tick.” It’s great! I’ve discovered that somewhere deep inside me I’m afraid of disappointing her if I don’t do it. Even when it’s cold and I’d really rather stay in bed, I tell myself – “Just Friggin’ Do It” and I do. I’ve done it now for five weeks and only missed two mornings. I decided to forgive myself for that. I like the way this makes me feel about myself. I suddenly feel like someone with self-discipline; someone who can achieve something. I feel like someone who has energy and purpose. I like to imagine that my abdominal muscles are getting slightly harder. And although I can’t really say that I’ve noticed a great physical improvement, mentally I feel great. I’ve even signed up to do the MSWA bike ride. No, I won’t be on the road, but on the Motormed bike in the physio gym. I have set myself a goal of riding 25km over the six weeks of the event, and let my friends and family know, and I have a bunch of people who have offered to sponsor me. It feels quite exciting to be doing something physical which will help raise funds for MSWA to provide services to people with MS and other neurological conditions. I’m glad to be doing my bit, as I receive so much support from MSWA. Yesterday, someone said to me, “When are you going to write that book you’re always talking about?” Ever since I was about ten years old, I’ve wanted to write a novel and become a famous author. Back then I wanted to be Enid Blyton, but these days I aspire to be a female Tim Winton. I think about it. I talk about it. I’ve even got the book launch party planned, but up to now I haven’t started. Well, that is going to change. I’ve had a revelation. I’ve realised I can take the same approach to writing as I have taken to exercising. I’ve set myself an initial goal of writing for 15 minutes a day. To keep myself accountable, I will message Kathleen after doing it. For now, I will just write anything, exploring some of the ideas I’ve had over the years, but eventually I hope I will know how to start my ’Great Australian Novel’. Once the habit is established, I will increase the time I set aside to write, and maybe one day I’ll have a book. Maybe one day I will invite you to join me over a glass of celebratory champagne and canapés, and I’ll sell you a copy. Maybe one day... but don’t hold your breath. For now I’m going to Just Friggin’ Write. ROS HARMAN MSWA MEMBER 15