St Denys' and St Mark's Joint Benefice

  • The Rectory
  • Mayfield Road
  • Rotherfield
  • East Sussex
  • TN6 3LU

01892 852536
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May 2018

Sunday afternoon and we are enjoying what feels and looks like, a wonderful summer’s day.  The temptation, of course, is to go and sit in the garden and relax in a comfy chair; who knows, I might finish this article in time to enjoy time in the garden!

Many people have looked forward to this time of the year, expressing their eagerness to get back into their gardens.  After several months of cold, wet and miserable weather, we have been longing for this change and are hoping for a period of settled and comfortable warmth. 

A few days ago, I walked around and surveyed the garden.  It’s amazing how in a relatively short-time it has exploded with new growth.  There is a feeling of freshness as the trees, plants and hedgerows are coming alive with colour.  Throughout the winter months there has been a hidden potential, but now the temperatures are right and the sun is warmer, new life is springing up everywhere.

You can understand why many spend hours working in their gardens, creating a place for relaxation and contemplation and the opportunity to pull-away from the relentless pace of life.  Whenever I go on retreat, particularly in remote monastic communities, I like to make the most of their garden areas.  The danger for many of us is that our lives have become so busy that we find it difficult to stop and enjoy what creation has to offer for us.  As I get older that saying: “You are never closer to God than in a garden,” has over the years begun to resonate within me.  This combination of stepping back from the treadmill of life and enjoying either a garden, or the countryside has gradually increased my sense of gratitude.  It is a simple expression of appreciation of what I believe is God-given for our well-being.

A few days ago, I was reading an article on the benefits of developing a life that expresses gratitude and several beneficial effects of living life with a simple appreciation of what is good. Studies have found there are benefits of gratitude — both mental and physical — when people felt grateful for little everyday things.  Apparently:

Gratitude can make you more patient, and when we are more patient we are able to make better decisions. 

Gratitude might improve your relationships.  According to a study in the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, feeling grateful toward your partner — and vice versa — can improve numerous aspects of your relationship, including feelings of connectedness and overall satisfaction as a couple. 

Gratitude improves self-care: In a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers asked people to rate their levels of gratitude, physical health and psychological health, as well as how likely they were to do wellbeing-boosting behaviours like exercise, healthy eating and going to the doctor. They found positive correlations between gratitude and each of these behaviours, suggesting that giving thanks helps people appreciate and care for their bodies.

Gratitude can help you sleep: “Count blessings, not sheep,” that’s likely because you have more positive thoughts before you go to sleep, which may soothe the nervous system.

Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts: Lots of things, from a compliment to a sugary treat, can bring little bursts of happiness, but instant gratification also goes away quickly, which leaves you craving more.  Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness because it’s not based in that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind, if you regularly take time to express gratitude and thankfulness, you’re likely to see results.

It is helpful to develop this grateful outlook at the simple blessings that are all around us; many of which we can enjoy and appreciate in our gardens.  As the old song goes:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.