If there is one thing the last 2 years have taught me, it is to be grateful.

In the busy world that we inhabit, it’s all too easy to miss life’s simple pleasures; the seemingly small things that enrich our lives and intrinsically weave themselves through the fabric of our day to day. At the same time, I’ve learnt that in times of darkness, it’s even more important to hold on to those things.

Over many years, I’ve taught myself to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Negativity breeds and multiplies like a Mogwai fed after midnight. Positivity breeds positivity, but it requires work to maintain that outlook.

Just 2 years ago, after the loss of a loved one, which hit our family at it’s core, I decided to create the grateful jar. It’s a jam jar that sits in our kitchen, which Elsa decorated with stickers. It serves as a constant reminder for all the good things in our lives. Any of us can add to the grateful jar at any time and it can be about anything at all; we just pop it on a scrap piece of paper and put it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve we empty the grateful jar, read them all and stick them in a scrap book that gets added to each year.

I don’t have the time to keep a diary, but I do have time to record the little things that help to make our life experience a happy one. Last year, on New Year’s Eve, despite the roller coaster of a year that we had had, we sat down and read all the memories that we had placed in the grateful jar and I was truly amazed at all the wonderful things that we had experienced that year.

In our world of instant gratification and technology, you may be sceptical at the power of these little bits of paper in the jar. It’s completely timeless and the notion of its back to basics existence is somehow part of the charm.

In times of stress and worry, the presence of the grateful jar makes us all focus on the good stuff and not the negative. It’s about looking for the positives even when things are tough. It helps you find the positives in a trying day, and I hope that it teaches the children that even when times are difficult, they can still find the positives.

Our brains are hard wired to look for the negatives, to look for the danger around us so that we can stay safe. Sometimes though, especially in difficult times, it’s possible for us to look at everything negatively because of the mind set that we’re in, and therefore the good stuff can simply slip past us.

If we go through life saying things like ‘I can’t wait for this year to be over’ or ‘it’ll be alright when . . .’  then we miss all the possibilities that present themselves because we’re so focused on the negatives. Life is for living in the here and now, not the ‘when’.  I don’t think luck just happens, I never have done. As Oprah Winfrey once said ‘ I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky’.

I think Dumbledore got it spot on when he said ‘Happiness can always be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light’.