BY: Janine Mitchell
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Why is gratitude so important? How does it help us feel happier, reduce feelings of stress and negativity? How does it support our mental wellbeing?
We often tend to focus on the negative. It isn’t our fault. We are predisposed to think and feel this way. It is actually much easier to focus on the negative, rather than the positive. We are often living by the hormones of stress as we are in ‘fight or flight’ much of the time. We are also often surrounded by negativity. Think of the news, or when you open a newspaper. We feed off negativity.
So how can we change this?
There is often so much to be grateful for in life. However, we miss much of what is around us. We have a preference to focus on the negative. It’s inbuilt.
“I haven’t got this” “ I haven’t got that” “I’ll be happy when….” You recognise this, right?
So how can we focus on the positive? How can we focus on what we have got rather than what we haven’t? How can we make powerful change?
We always have a choice.
I am going to share some powerful, yet simple tips with you.
Before I do, I want to tell you that scientific research shows that being in gratitude leads to happiness.
Further, in a survey on gratitude in adult professionals, British psychologist and wellness expert Robert Holden found that 65 out of 100 people selected happiness over health, although they indicated that both were equally important for a good life. Holden, in his study, suggested that the roots of many psychopathological conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress are unhappiness. Science also shows us that gratitude improves health.
This diagram shows us how the neuroscience of gratitude can affect the brain. Gratitude actually changes the neural structures in the brain, making us feel happier and more content.
Tips for gratitude
- Complete a Journal
Set some time aside every day. Focus on the things, places, experiences you are happy and grateful for in your life. What did you achieve today? Who did you impact? Who impacted positively on you? What new choices or decisions did you make? Any type of journaling about your day can get you off autopilot, be more focussed and allow you to be more in the moment. We often let life pass us by. This will allow you to focus on all the good, happiness, successes and wins that are happening in your life.
2. A Gratitude Diary
Buy a small notepad. At the end of every day, either before bed or when you get into bed, write down at least five things you are grateful for. They can be something little like what you had for breakfast, to something huge, like a big life decision. This is the thing. You always have to get to five. Some days they will roll off your tongue and onto the paper and you will write reams and reams. Other days you may struggle to get to five. You aways have to get there. Do this every day, and you will soon start noticing big changes.
We fail to breath properly. Shallow breathing happens when we are in stress, anxiety or worry. Once we become mindful of good strong breathing from the diaphragm, this can make huge changes. Find a nice quite space and sit up straight. Firstly start by getting quiet, and noticing your breathing. Then practice a technique called 6-7-8.
With your mouth closed, breath in through the nose for the count of six. Feel the tummy expand. Hold the breath for the count of seven. Then release slowly through the mouth for eight. Try this several times. It is naturally proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. It will get you in a space feeling much more calm and relaxed. This is so good, you can do it mostly anywhere! Practice as much as you like throughout the day, you will see wonderful benefits. It also sets you up amazingly well for the day the moment you wake up!
4. Gratitude Alphabet
This is a great one to help you get to sleep at night, or if you wake up in the middle of the night (poor sleep affects a huge amount of people). As you close your eyes and think of what you are grateful for that begins with A. The with B. Then with C. So on and so forth. I can guarantee if you focus on this fully, you will fall asleep before you get to Z!
All these exercises help rewire the brain. They allow us to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Forcing us to look for the positive. And trust me, there is so much around….if we chose to look for it! Its also helps us be in the now, rather than being depressed, upset or sad (the past) or anxious and/ or worried (the future, it hasn’t even happened yet).
Janine work with organisations and individuals.