While there are so many incredibly serious issues in the world at the moment, our mental health and sense of wellbeing may be one of the things taking a big hit.

I know there is a risk of sounding glib or trite or even childish in a one page musing on gratitude. Nevertheless, during the past couple of weeks, I have stumbled on an activity that has become really helpful, particularly when I’ve felt discouraged, frustrated or overwhelmed. 

I’ve called it the Gratitude A-Z Alphabet Game (I know, it’s not the most inventive title, so I’m open to suggestions!) It’s a simple game really, but I have found it slows me down, pushes me to think, and helps me refocus. It basically works like this: how many letters of the alphabet can we use to name things we are grateful for?  

In life in general? About our work? About a team or a class or a hobby or interest? Our home, or family - the list goes on.  

Thinking of the letter D, I’m grateful for someone called Dan who probably saved my life when I was a headstrong teenager. Sadly, he has since passed away. He was just a few years older than me. 

I was seventeen. It was an early evening and with the naive and ego-laced bravado of youth, I chose to go kayaking on a Welsh estuary with a friend and his older brother. The problem was the conditions weren’t great. It was windy, it was raining, and the light was fading.

I wasn’t a total beginner but I wasn’t really a strong canoeist. So we told ourselves we’d paddle into the headwind to make the journey back easier. 

After travelling about a mile, we decided to turn around. And at that moment I realised I might be in trouble. The headwind had not been a challenge because we were in the flow of a strong outgoing tide. The current was immense. Immediately, I made another mistake. Dipping the paddle into the water to turn myself about, it was forced against the side of the canoe causing me to flip over. I knew I couldn’t right myself and had to get out. I knew how to release the canoe’s spray deck underwater but I was stunned at the power pulling me out to sea.

While there might be all sorts of metaphors from this experience (the adverse influence of ego, the nature of challenge, the seen and the unseen forces that shape our lives and life-chances) what I acknowledge is my debt of gratitude.

I'm not sure how my story would have ended if not for my friend’s brother who was a competent, strong canoeist and who immediately came to my aid, protecting me from further harm - perhaps even death, the outgoing tide was so incredibly powerful - someone who knew how to get me back into my canoe while at sea and on my way again, shaken but safe, and definitely a whole lot wiser. 

Who in our teams has made a difference to us? To whom might we give sincere thanks this week?  

What powerful, life-influencing benefits might there be in regularly taking time to recognise how often we succeed because of the help and care and presence of others?