A Powerful Exercise. On Gratitude

"Gratitude is the experience of counting one's blessing" writes Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramadas in their magnificent creation on journaling. It's little wonder why Nigerians have been called the happiest people on earth; most grew up singing "Count your blessings, name them one by one" in churches. And still do when engaged in mindless tasks or when Sunday roles around again. Their state of happiness is often summarised as this: "A suffering but smiling people". Which spells out, I think, a nature of a people to be resilient despite grave oddities. A trait only made more accommodative when flavoured with gratitude. 

A repeated behaviour tends to lose it's potency. Even worse when this repetition is done in a mindless state. In cases where the behaviour is handed down from past generations, those who participate have a tendency to simply do, without knowing why they do, or how to do, such behaviours. They lose the benefits that come from proper engagement. 

Things like "thank you", "thank God" or "we thank God" now carry a meaninglessness. We barely have reasons for saying them. We simply do because we are supposed to. Perhaps out of an obligation to be polite. 

Go ahead. Ask the first the person you come across after reading this "how are you?". Chances are s/he will respond with "fine". Ask him/her why s/he is fine or what is making him/her fine. You are likely to hear something dry along the line of "we just thank God". In most instances, your question will be followed by a long pause. Only, on occasions, followed by non-personal or non-specific things like "the sun is shining", "we are kicking it". 

What this reveals is that most of us fail to take out time to truly count our blessings. 

By all means, Say "Thank you", say "Thank God", say "We thank God". It's in support of these fine sayings that I have written this post. I only add that we draw out every potential inherent in a behaviour to yield optimal returns.

I suggest you try a simple exercise. I first came across it in Maria Popoova's magnificent blog (www.brainpickings.org). The summary of the blog entry concerning the exercise is this: a renowned psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, points to gratitude as an antidote to debilitating states of mind such as depression. 

Here is a quote that summarizes the exercise:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”). 
Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause … “She did everything right during her pregnancy.” 
Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. 
While Dr. Martin Seligman promises you will be hooked to the exercise after six months, I can say I am addicted to the exercise just after one week! The gem truly comes from answering the why; though, it can take some discomforting dose of effort. I beckon you try this exercise in addition to the gratitude exercises you may now practise. You will be pleased. 

Thank You for reading.

Kindly share this exercise with anyone you know who has confided in you about being down or depressed. It could help greatly. 

Post Author: P. W. Uduk

Photo Source: www.digg.com

Question of the day: What simple things are you grateful for? 

Update (25/09/2015):

A reader asked to know what "Count your blessings, name them one by one" sounds like. So, I reached out to Miss Fay Fay of Nutjob Diaries for an a cappella rendition of the song. Nothing fancy. Just a recording of our voices using the sound recorder on an Android phone. Miss Fay Fay's voice is charming and amongst the most beautiful I've heard. I'm grateful to her collaborating with me on this project. She works with cool FM, writes on her blog and publishes weekly podcasts (5MOYT).

To listen, 

Stream by clicking here. Or, 

Download it as an MP3 by clicking here and choosing “save as" if prompted.


  1. Awesome!!! Keep putting in the work yea.

    1. Bala. Thanks for your words of encouragement. They keep us going.


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