The 4th of January 2016 was a big day for me: it was the first day of working for myself. Following this path is something I have wanted to do for a long time; it felt and still does feel like exactly what I should be doing.

In these early stages of working for myself each step is so small yet so big at the same time. The smallest of wins can seem like a break through and the smallest of setbacks can make you feel like a failure. A couple of friends of mine – who are in a similar situation – described this as an emotional rollercoaster where every positive or negative is not only exaggerated like an ant under a microscope but also projected on to everything in the future. For example, one failure is projected and exaggerated into a feeling like nothing will ever work out and that I am a failure; while one small positive email can make me feel like I can achieve anything and that I am on my way to conquer the world.

It is important that during this time I celebrate small wins and remain mindful of the positive things I have done so far and every small thing in my life that I am lucky to have. This will make the negatives seem less of a big deal and put everything into perspective. To do this I play ‘The Gratitude Game’.

The gratitude game is a simple way to maintain perspective when things go wrong and also to appreciate the positive moments as they come my way.

How to play:

List in your mind every single thing in your life that you are grateful for. No matter how big or small it is… just keep listing until you cannot help but smile.

When to play:

Any moment when you have time to be with your own thoughts is a perfect time to play. For example, play this game while:

  • Driving
  • Walking
  • Waiting
  • Washing dishes
  • Lying in bed

You don’t have to write it down and the game can vary in length depending on what you are doing throughout the day. Even if you only list the one thing as you identify it, making a conscious note of it will really help to make your day better.

The key is to start small. Do not limit yourself to big things: I usually find that the smallest things make me feel the happiest. I had a period at my old apartment where there was no hot water in the kitchen tap, then once it was fixed I felt so grateful when I put my hand under the tap that, just by realizing how great that is, I now regularly make a note to feel grateful for free flowing, clean and hot water.

Similarly, most people will be able to identify with the feeling – when they are ill – that they would give anything to feel normal again: to be able to get on with their life. For this reason, I am grateful for my good health. Just keep listing things and see how many things you can name. Actively search your mind for new things to be grateful for. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Small things-

  • Health
  • Hot water
  • Food
  • A refrigerator
  • The train not being late
  • Clothing
  • Having a selection of clothes to choose from
  • Electricity
  • A warm bed
  • Days off
  • A cup of tea

Big things-

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Education
  • Political freedom
  • Ability to earn a living
  • Freedom to choose your spouse
  • Security
  • What century you were born into
  • The house you own

Try this game once and see how much it can affect your mood. A simple game can have a big impact. Just start listing little things and your mind will gradually start to flood with ideas for things you could be grateful for.

Let me know how you felt after trying this by leaving a comment below…