A good moan might be one of the defining characteristics of the British, but it’s harming our emotional and spiritual wellbeing, finds Lucy Bryson in Spirit of Gratitude, out this week.
Social media has achieved many things - it can be a salve for loneliness, a way to maintain old friendships and build new ones, and it can help people develop careers and passions through networking online. But recent studies have also shown its use can trigger depression, anxiety and a sense of inadequacy; following its media darlings – the fabulously rich and famous – can leave us doubting the validity, meaning and value of our own lives and chosen paths.
It’s not only social media and glossy magazines that can lead to feelings of inadequacy - envy and resentment creep in through other means, too: the neighbour’s new car; a friend’s “perfect” family; a sibling’s good looks. In a western society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, it’s easy to become fixated on the success of others and to overlook our own blessings.
British writer George Jerjian, who is of Armenian heritage, tackles the issue head-on in Spirit of Gratitude: Crises are Opportunities, his tenth (and arguably best) book to date. In it, Jerjian suggests that with a simple shift of perspective, we can learn not only how to be grateful for all the good things in our lives – including those things we take for granted like shelter, warmth and food – but can also start to view challenges and crises as opportunities in disguise.
The crux of his message is that gratitude allows people to become successful, both personally and professionally, and that by embracing gratitude we can achieve anything we truly desire. Without gratitude, he says, successes and satisfaction are fleeting - we will soon want more and ‘better’.
Each of its 12 chapters examine pivotal moments in Jerjian’s own life, beginning with a move to England from Sudan (“English food was so bad, I was certain the English created table manners as a way to divert attention”) and his boarding school education where despite receiving violent beatings from fellow pupils, he retains fond memories of his school days.
In the first chapter, ‘Be Yourself’, he recounts the lessons he learned from his school days – that we create emotional ‘masks’ and that it takes courage to reveal our true selves. “Once you know yourself and realize who you really are and not who you want to be, you will become more confident, you will understand your purpose and you will finally see where you and your specific gifts fit into the picture. To truly know yourself is the most important skill you can ever possess”, he writes.
The book goes on to examine the key concepts of faith, desire, thinking, creativity, gratitude, decisions, persistence, self-image, attitude, feelings, and success, and provides food for thought about how we view our own lives and the lives of those around us. By learning to be grateful, Jerjian convincingly argues, we automatically shut out envy. He also extols the theory that success – in all senses of the word - stems from a positive and grateful outlook on life, and not by chasing it.
Jerjian penned the book after being diagnosed with what doctors believed was a terminal tumour. When the tumour turned out to be benign, Jerjian was given a new lease of life and set about understanding himself (he spent 30 days at a silent Jesuit retreat in North Wales, a challenge that allowed him to reflect on all that had happened in his life, and all that he had learned).
Spirit of Gratitude will attract the sceptics, as all books of this ilk do. But it has won acclaim – and the hearts of – many plaudits worldwide. The New York Times bestselling writer Peggy McColl (Your Destiny Switch and others), describes it as “a profound book and a testimony of strength, courage and faith that reinforces the power that gratitude brings to our lives. He provides us with a beautiful tool.” It also boasts a foreword by Baroness Sheila Hollins, the former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2005-2008), who remarks: “This is not a book to skim, but one to relax with and to reflect on, in your own unique journey of discovery and desire.”
As a trained journalist, marketer, writer and public speaker, Jerjian writes with a warm wit and has a knack of expressing complex theories as simple, easy-to-implement ideas. His book comes recommended.