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A young woman sits on a forest floor with her legs crossed, her hands with her palms together and fingers touching her chin. She has her eyes closed and she has a big smile, and there is a cat crawling onto her lap

by Chaplain Ross

The St Bart’s Chaplaincy Service has, at its core service delivery, a focus on Wellbeing for St Bart’s consumers and staff. Meeting with people in an open, befriending and listening way allows the chaplain to hear what the person is actually struggling with.

When we face difficult challenges in our life, they tend to become the main focus of our thinking. In extreme cases, it can consume us when we are unable to turn our thinking to anything other than the difficulty that we think is before us.

By assisting the person struggling in becoming aware that there are other aspects to their life, we enable them to take a step forward.

It is quite a journey to examine our thinking, let alone change our thinking. Yet the benefits of turning to positive thinking rather than being absorbed in a consuming, problem-centered thinking is well documented. Harvard Health states that psychological research links gratitude with greater happiness and positive emotions, good experiences and improved health, leading to the ability to deal with adversity and to build strong relationships.

Ignatius of Loyola lived a long time ago, passing away on 31 July 1556, yet he was already onto the power of gratitude leading to transformed thinking. Ignatius left for his followers what he called an “examen”, to be undertaken in the morning and evening of each day.

There are many versions of this “examen”, however here is a universal secular version that anyone can use in five simple steps:

1.  Expressing gratitude by seeking to notice that which you can give thanks for. An action that helps you do this in our task driven world is to stop and slowly retrace your steps until you stop at an object that you did not notice in your previous journey (such as a pretty plant or tree). Here is that beauty that you have noticed and can give thanks for.

2.  Seeking insight into yourself and the world. A good way of looking at this is to ask, “How am I responding to this situation?” and “How could this look differently to me?”

3.  Reflecting, in reviewing how you have responded to the events of the day, ask questions on your behavior such as, “Was it reactionary or was it open and engaging?” and “What were my feelings?”

4.  Noticing if you are hurting or stuck, or in need of emotional or relational healing. Forgive those who hurt you, or if you have hurt others seeking forgiveness, can you forgive yourself? Would this make a difference in your life?

5.  Looking forward, to name the action that you can take that will make a difference in your life.

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