An Attitude of Gratitude
When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else. -Joseph Campbell
Thankfully the same part of the brain where negative thoughts occur is where we can find gratitude which means we can´t simultaneously have a negative thought and a thought of gratitude. Although important to acknowledge and listen to the wisdom of our pain and negative emotions (under the heading Transmute Worry above shows you how to do this effectively), when stuck in a pattern of negative ruminations or a low mood, focusing our mind on gratitude and our blessings immediately alters the brain chemistry and alleviates our mood and shift in thinking from one of pessimism to that of optimism and faith.
Taking the time to really feel in your heart and mind the things, people, situations, present moments that you are grateful for, activates the parasympathetic nervous system in the body which puts you in a calmer more relaxed state and releases and decreases levels of stress in the mind and body. It also activates the electromagnetic frequency of the heart and puts it in a state of coherence and peace that communicates with the brain; thus creating this shift in thinking and perspective. Gratitude is like a natural drug that can alter your mind and body state instantaneously whilst you hold thoughts and feelings of gratitude in your mind and heart. If you can create an attitude of gratitude before going into difficult circumstances and conversations with others, you will find you see situations in a new light, from a different perspective and one where hopefully you can find a more peaceful and loving way to respond and react to what life and others throw at you.
Interestingly, research conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky and that she writes about in her book “The How of Happiness”, found that happiness levels increased in participants who practised counting their blessings by writing them down at the end of each week but happiness levels didn´t increase in participants who were asked to do the same task but this time to count their blessings three days per week. Lyubomirsky suggests this is because the task of counting their blessings three times per week of a persistent duration of time makes the task seem boring and more like a chore than an intentional activity to increase happiness. It is important to find variety in our habits and routines so that we don´t adapt to them to the extent that they start to become automated where we lose the conscious effect of their benefits.
Find new ways to practice gratitude to keep it fun, effective, and life changing.
- For every bad thing that happened to you that week, think about something that you can be grateful for from it; maybe you learnt a new nugget of wisdom or it alerted you to change an aspect of yourself or life.
- Get kids involved in coming up with creative ways and games to express gratitude before bed or before meal times.
- Write thank you notes to all the people that brightened up your week.
- Draw or paint all the things you are grateful for.
- Have thematic weeks/months where you look out for particular moments of gratitude in different areas of your life like love, career, parenting, friendships, health.
- Sit in nature and just be grateful for what is, the beauty you are seeing in the moment.
- Meditate when feeling stressed and overwhelmed and feel the feeling of gratitude in your heart radiating to every cell in your body until you feel calm and at peace and can think from a new perspective of gratitude.
If in doubt, you are alive, therefore you have a purpose; be grateful for your life and the opportunity to change yourself and circumstances by coming into conscious awareness and gratitude.
Health is your Wealth
Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. —Lao Tzu
Movement equals our psychology. Take, for example, the fact that in 50% of people research has shown that yawning 10 times (even when you fake yawn) is as effective as meditation and relaxation techniques as it awakens the pre-frontal cortex and helps you focus more and be creative. So the next time you feel stuck when making a decision or have writer´s block, start yawning and stretching to re-awaken your mind. It´s effective as it helps more blood flow get to parts of the brain associated with higher levels of consciousness that Buddhist monks reach when meditating which creates shifts in thinking. Teachers out there and managers allow your students and co-workers to come to class and meetings and yawn…it´s helping them to stay awake, alert and focus on learning and listening; it might even help them come up with some creative ideas!
Doing aerobic exercise for three minutes (and more) changes the neurology of the brain because the brain after three minutes and more of blood flow oxygenating around the body and brain can´t hold anxious or negative thoughts at the same time providing a wonderful opportunity to create new beliefs about yourself/circumstances/life/relationships. Start saying those affirmations and intentions you want to create in life whilst exercising and you will literally be re-programming your brain and creating new neural pathways which will help you take positive actions on these newly created thoughts and beliefs about yourself and life. Now you can literally get a new brain and body at the same time!