It’s difficult to sum up what’s happening right now in our society…or broader than that…the whole world. Things are rapidly evolving, changing and we’re having to adapt and work together like most of us have never needed to before.
Amid the chaos we seem to be learning something deeper about out humanity. We’re seeing people giving, sharing and helping in a way that gives hope and reassurance that we’re all in this together.
I’d really like to use this time to offer some bits of knowledge I have about wellbeing and how you can take care of it. And so I’m going to be sharing tips and ideas over the coming weeks of techniques and information I use to help clients deal with stress, anxiety and other issues.
Today I’d really like to talk about something that seems so simple but research has shown it to be so helpful to wellbeing that it has been termed a superpower! It has something I’ve used myself on the darkest of days and I can say with complete honesty that it has made a huge difference to me.
It is the art of gratitude. That is, recognising and being thankful for the good and positive stuff going on in our lives. I talk to people a lot about our brains and how a part of it tends to look out for things going wrong, the negative, threats etc in order to protect us from perceived danger (it’s called the amygdala, more on this another day). When we’re stressed this part of the brain tends to be in overdrive. For this reason, we have an innate tendency to vere towards what’s wrong instead of what’s right or what’s good. We are quite literally scanning for threats and all that might go wrong or is wrong.
There has been a lot of research into the psychology of gratitude which comes under an area known as Positive Psychology. This area looks to build upon our strengths and resilience to improve wellbeing. The psychology of gratitude has shown that when we begin to focus on the good stuff happening in our lives and around us, we quite literally re-wire our brains for the better. The more we practice it, the better we feel, the better outlook we have and our mental health and wellbeing improves.
How do we go about doing this? It can be in any number of ways. A common way is to start a gratitude journal. But this could be as simple as writing down 3 things a day that you are grateful for on your phone. There are also various apps that can be used for this purpose. Now the trick is, not to necessarily look for big things. It could be appreciating the cup of coffee you had this morning; noticing how cute your dog looked; being able to buy fresh food in the supermarket; listening to a song you love….the list can be literally endless. You may start with 3 things a day or if it’s really hard, start with 1. But build on it. Practice it. It does take practice but like all things we practice, we get better at them.
The point is, when you start focusing on the good you realise how much good there is. And this in turn makes you feel better. And the more you do it the more your brain does it naturally.
I should add, this is not about being overly positive or ignoring negative things that need dealing with. That’s neither helpful or realistic. In fact, I’m going to talk more about that in my next post. Because there are skills we need here too. This is about supporting our naturally threat-focused brains to be more balanced, which is much more helpful to our wellbeing.
So, I’d like to challenge people to give this a go. Maybe people can share some of what they notice here. It would be great to see what people are grateful for because we can all learn from each other. And when we do this we see just how much we have to be thankful for.