vets and vet clinics – attitude of gratitude – control what you can control

Welcome to ep 47 of Paws Claws and Wet Noses – the vet podcast celebrating all creatures great and small and the fantabulous professionals who look after them all – I’m your show host Julie South.

Today we’re looking at your mental health and wellbeing.

Talking of mental health – Vet Nurse Awareness Week – has your clinic registered in the VetStaff Love Your Vet Nurse competition?  Stay tuned to the end of this episode to find out more.

Back to mental health – which is a term I really don’t like much – there’s gotta be a better term but I can’t think of one … anyway, it’s been on my mind – hahaha – pun intended – for a few weeks now … as I mentioned in ep 044 – which was entitled “vet mindsets – how to stay positive in a covid pandemic locked down world” – even with my NLP training, I’ve noticed the light of positivity in my mind dim over the last couple of weeks, and if I’m feeling it, then I know that others must certainly be a little shaky too.

Since that episode I’ve had a few people ask me how can they have an attitude of gratitude – what does that look like – as part of their lives?   The conversation usually goes something like this:

I journal.

What does journaling look like?


Who’s got time to journal?


How do you start?


What’s the purpose of that?

So today I’d like to share what journaling looks like for me – there’s no right or wrong way to journal – the important thing is to just do it.

But before I do that, I’d just like to share a bit of my journey and let you know that I’m not into this whole vulnerability thing that seems to be going down on social media right now … I’m not convinced that when people publicly share their horror or hard-luck stories on social media that it helps anyone …

Instead, I believe there are times and places for doing that – FB or LI isn’t that place … that’s life according to Julie. 

But what I will share with you today is that I know what it feels like to hit rock bottom … I know what it feels like to have the devil start a very dark conversation inside your head… I know what prejudice is like – I grew up with it – just because I’m a white English-is-my-first-language-woman doesn’t mean that I haven’t grown up with people judging me –

I grew up in the East End of London … fortunately my mum and dad worked crazy hard for us to emigrate to NZ … they did that to give my sisters and me the opportunity to have a better life than we would ever have been able to have in the UK.

For this, I’m eternally grateful.

So….. let’s talk about growing an attitude gratitude and journaling.


There are plenty of reasons to practice gratitude, including the benefits to your overall mental health and well-being.

Practicing gratitude means different things to different people. From daily journaling, active meditations, to evening or morning prayers, gratitude practice can take many forms.

What does it mean to practice gratitude?

Put simply, gratitude means the state of being grateful.

It involves expressing thanks or appreciation for something, from a gift to life itself.

Gratitude is an active state – you have to go looking for it – it doesn’t just happen without having an open heart and an open mind… well I don’t believe it can.

Gratitude involves the recognition of the positive things in your life and how they affect you.

It can range from noticing and truly stopping to look at and smell the roses through acknowledgement of a beautiful flower you pass when you’re out walking … or being wowed by the beauty of a full moon … or a rainbow … or sunrise or sunset … the smile on a baby’s face … when your pet greets you with such enthusiastic love when you get home … when your kids show you their work of art that’s just for you… 

Being grateful, I’ve discovered, is most powerful during all the times I feel anything but grateful … when nothing appears to be going right … when I’m being beaten up on FB or LI … when a job-seeker tells me they forgot to tell me about the job they’ve already applied for that I’m working hard to get them an interview …

When you notice times of resentment, jealousy, frustration, anger … when you just want to rant and rage at the world because. Nothing. Is. going. right!

That is when it’s important to take time out and be grateful.  

Back in episode 44 I introduced you to Dr Alison Ledgewood and her studies on why the human brain seems to get stuck in the negative all the time.

There are many different ways you can include having an attitude of gratitude in your life:

gratitude exercises, such as journaling – this is something I’ve been doing for about 10 or so years now.  Some people journal before they go to bed, others in the morning.   I’m a morning person. 

I also prefer to write on paper with ink, as opposed to type using my keyboard.  Because I can touch type it’s easy for me to disconnect from what I’m typing – I want my journaling to connect with me on some level. 

I’ve gone through a stack of notebooks.  Mine are about A5 in size and I use two pages per day – left and right hand sides of the notebook.  

That probably sounds pretty horrendous – lots of writing, but it’s not really because I also have two mantras I start my day off with, with the intention of tapping into them when I need to kick myself up the ass during the day.  

I first came across the saying “let go let god” from one of my flatmates centuries ago.   He was what’s known as a sober alcoholic.  That means he’s an alcoholic who no longer drinks and is sober…. He stayed that way by being an active AA member who attended weekly meetings.

Anyway, he told me that one of the sayings of AA was to “let go let god” because there are some things we just cannot control.   I think he told me this because he thought I was a control freak.

Back then I was a very cosmic child of the universe – there was no way I could relate to this Christian being of “god”.  

So he reframed it for me and said AA members connect to the “god of their understanding – whatever that meant for each person”. 

I could live with that.    I was a child of the universe.

So.  Back to my morning ritual – on the left hand page of a two page spread, I practice my graffiti writing skills with the mantra “let go let god” and on the right hand page, I’m graffiti-ing my mantra “I choose love”.

The “I choose love” mantra is important to me because until I met my inlaws, I had no idea marriage could remain a love-filled relationship.  

My parents fought and bickered the whole time I can remember them together.   Both sets of grandparents fought and bickered.

Both sets of my grandparents would have been better off divorced but in their day that’s not what you did.  You stayed together come hell or high water.  

Sooooo … because for most of my life I’ve had this “thing” that love doesn’t last – I’m absolutely terrified of ending up like my grandmothers or even my own mother – of falling out of love with my husband – who’s the best thing to ever happen in my life … that’s why “I choose love” is my mantra to help me stay on the straight and narrow each day in my relationship.

It takes me about 5 minutes to write these words and colour them in.   While I’m doing this I’m reflecting on my yesterday – I’m looking for all the things to be grateful about.

Sometimes that’s hard – especially when it’s been one of those days where I wonder why I ever got up because it would’ve been much easier to stay in bed!

My goal is to be grateful for three good things in addition to my friends and family.

If three things don’t immediately come to mind I reflect back on my yesterday starting at when I got up … I look back at what I did … hour by hour … what happened … who did I meet?  Talk to?  Email?  What did I do for lunch?  Who was I with?

I work my way through my day looking for three things.

Sometimes, it’s just that I got the washing dry on the line outside and didn’t have to faff around with the clothes airer inside… Sometimes it’s that I emptied the dishwasher – I remember my life before I had a dishwasher – yuk! 

There are times when I go through the day and I stop and smell the roses – metaphorically speaking – I give myself permission to stop for a couple of breaths and wow at the rainbow … or the full moon … or the beautiful flower in someone’s garden … or the elderly couple walking hand in hand together … the tui that visits the tree not far from where I work…

Back to my journal … on each two-page spread I’ve now got these two coloured in graffiti like words which I write around.

If you’re interested I’ve posted an image on the episode page of PCWN episode 47 for you to have a look at what I’m referring to.

While I’m writing in my journal I’m enjoying a cup of coffee at the same time.  I usually only have one cup of coffee each day so I make sure it’s a good one and one I enjoy.

I start off with giving thanks for my life, the people in my life – especially my friends and family and my husband.

Then I write a list of the names of all those I’m especially thinking off because I know they’ve got things happening in their lives which are tough – health conditions, relationships, businesses that are struggling…  

I write a list of my family and friends by name.    As I write each name I’m sending them my love and blessings.

I write the three things I’m grateful for.

I write how I’m feeling … sometimes I feel stupid doing that … sometimes I wonder what I’ve got to write about … so I just write that I’ve got nothing to write … which leads to other thoughts so I write those… sometimes I feel like I’m going around in circles of I don’t know why I’m writingI’ve got nothing to say

The important thing to remember with journaling is there’s no write or wrong.  

What I think is critically important is that you have a safe and private space for your journal.   That no one else is going to read it.   If there’s any possibility of that, find somewhere to keep it that’s private.

As I said earlier, having an attitude of gratitude is an active, doing thing – it’s not something that happens to you, you have to make it happen in your life.

It’s about looking for good things.   Because if you don’t actively look for good things, you’ll let the bad stuff happen – the negativity of the news or FB or LI.

It’s about paying paying attention to the little things in life, like the birds in the trees;

telling someone you’re grateful for them or for something they did, even if it was a long time ago;

doing something kind for someone in your life to express your gratitude

staying forcussed and meditating on the positive aspects of your life

giving thanks through prayer or in meditation

Getting started practicing gratitude

If you’re looking to start practicing gratitude regularly, there are plenty of useful exercises to help you integrate it into your daily life.

Gratitude jars

You can start a gratitude jar for your home and your clinic.  

Whenever something good happens or you feel thankful for something, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Next time you’re feeling down, give the jar a shake and pick out one slip of paper.

If you have morning meetings at your clinic you can give everyone a piece of paper with someone’s name on it – not their own – one of those memo cube type pieces of paper works fine.   Each person has to write something they’re grateful or would like to acknowledge about the person who’s name is on their piece of paper.   

Put all the pieces of paper into the jar.   Then at another meeting further into the week – when everyone’s probably forgotten about what they wrote – each person pulls a piece of paper out of the jar and reads what’s on their piece – to the person whose name is on the paper. 

Hopefully no one pulls out their own name when you’re playing this game.

About 10 years ago I started a small business owners coaching group.  We met monthly.   One of the exercises I got everyone to do was to write an anonymous message to all the members of the group about what they most admire, a contribution they’ve made or something they’re grateful for, for that person … each of these messages was put into an envelope for with each person’s name on the outside … I then delivered each person their envelope … we went around the group and shared one message each that most surprised us …

Yes it was a bit touchy-feeling but it’s about gratitude – about looking for the best in people.

You can do this at one of your team meetings … it needs planning but it’s a great way to finish the year up.

Morning meditation

A morning meditation practice can also involve gratitude.

You can choose to meditate on things you’re grateful for, or you may find it easier to meditate on how you’ve gotten to where you are now.

To do this, remember the past, both good and bad. Reflect on how far you’ve come since then. This puts the present into context and allows you to clearly see it, helping you feel grateful for what brought you to this point.

Morning meditations are a good time to practice gratitude meditation, as it starts your day up positively – which is why I do it then. 

You can also use it as a way to wind down before bed.


Prayer is another way to practice gratitude. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, prayer can be a helpful tool for generating feelings of gratitude. It’s also been linked to positive health outcomes.

Prayer is a chance to marvel at life and the miracle of existence. It doesn’t have to involve a particular belief or tradition, but can simply be a way of giving thanks for being alive.


Volunteering is a practical way to practice gratitude. Helping those in need can inspire you to reflect on your own circumstances and bring on a sense of compassion for humanity as a whole.

I believe that being grateful helps counter the negative and destructive emotions of resentment and jealousy.   But that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

I’d like to share a TedX talk I stumbled across the other day – it’s entitled “kiss your brain” from the the University of Michigan Ted X held in June of this year – 2021.

Christina Costa is a PhD Psychology Candidate at the University of Michigan. She researches the psychology of well-being in addition to teaching undergraduate psychology and is specifically interested in well-being for teachers and the science of gratitude.

Last year, Christina was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare and severe brain tumour.

Christina has used gratitude as a tool to help maintain her personal well-being throughout her treatment. In her Ted X talk, Christina shares some of the lessons she’s learnt through her research and experience about the power of gratitude in her life, and how it can be used to change yours.

She holds a BA and MS from the University of Michigan.


You can start each of your team meetings off by asking everyone to kiss their brains. 

This is something I’m going to be incorporating at VetStaff’s team meetings going forward.

Now – changing the subject – have you registered to enter VetStaff’s Free Lunch Shout to celebrate Vet Nurse Awareness Week at your clinic?  We’re want to shout out the amazing talent that’s in NZ vet clinics outside of work that help keep your nurses all bright eyed and bushy tailed. 

Once you’ve registered we want to see photos – or videos – of their amazingness – we want to shout out your clinic’s nursing team from the rooftops!

Visit – go to News and Media page – you’ll find the entry there.   Alternatively – we’ve pinned the info at the top of our FB page – on FB.

As always – thank you for sharing the last XX mins of your life with me – I really truly do appreciate it.  I’m always up for feedback – of all sorts – if you’ve got a topic you’d like me to cover please let me know.  If you’d like me to add in a regular segment, please let me know – thank you.

And if you haven’t done so yet – click that FOLLOW button wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts – it’s free – doesn’t cost a cent – and means you’ll never miss out on an episode as your podcast channel of choice will deliver it straight into your podcast feed.

This is JCS signing off – kia kaha ka kite ano, take care, God bless………..


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