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Archive for gratitude

What if you awoke tomorrow with only the things you are grateful for today?

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I have shouted the benefits of gratitude from the rooftops previously, and when I saw a version of this line about gratitude embedded in a recent post by Marc and Angel Hack Life (www.marcandangel.com), it really struck me afresh.

Problems can reverberate and echo through our lives like music carrying on long after the orchestra has packed away its instruments.  What if we intentionally struck new notes by turning our attention to what really matters?

Positive psychology teaches us that exerting gratitude is one of only a handful of ways we know of to raise our happiness quotient.  According to the research, it works better than winning the lotto, so some would say it’s definitely worth a shot.

Problems pesky ways of grabbing attention, much like a schoolyard bully.   So once we have a strategy for our difficulties, it can be helpful to turn our attention again and again to our life luxuries, no matter how hard the negative people and events try to hoover up our day, our energy, our lives.

What are the top five things you want to wake up with tomorrow?

What Kind of Tool Are You?

tool picThe doctor said to me one day in therapy that he was angry with himself for being so reticent, so shy at parties.  He watched other single men holding court, while he was relegated to the background, never sharing the spotlight.  He felt like a faded wallflower.  He felt hopeless about ever attracting a woman to love him.

He did concede that people would seek him out for in-depth conversations, and he was never left standing alone at social events, far from it.  Nevertheless, he felt second best for failing to be the raconteur, the teller of wild stories.

I wondered how being the ‘Spotlight King’ would fit with being a General Practitioner.  Have you met the health professional who tells you all about their health problems, their personal life, their latest car?  No matter how entertaining the story, it’s still most times not what the patient needs.

Check the photo at the top of this page and name the best tool.  Which is numero uno?  Obviously the answer will be job-specific.  Hammers are ideal for joining pieces of timber with nails.  So should we then say that an axe is a useless, stupid tool, and fling it with gleeful vigour onto the rubbish heap?

My great-listener GP client came to see that the very characteristics he so despised about himself at parties made him a much sought-after doctor.  They also eventually made him a caring partner as well.  I love Cinderella endings, don’t you?

Comparing our characteristics to those of others is a recipe for misery.  The envy this engenders is completely unnecessary when we consider there are also aspects of ourselves that the other person may lack.  Lots of times which is best is merely a matter of taste, comparable to ice-cream flavours.

How often have your criticised yourself mercilessly?  Felt like throwing yourself out with the bathwater because you failed to live up to some kind of expectation, and then made this the whole basis of your worth as a person?

Abandon what you ‘should’ be like and deal with what is.  Positive self-regard does not involve being good at every single thing, nor being better than everyone else in a certain area.  Rather it involves recognising your strengths, enjoying them, and playing to them.

Professor Martin Seligman has demonstrated this concept quite clearly with great research back-up.  You can read more about this on his Authentic Happiness website or in his book of the same name.  The website even has free questionnaires to help you discover your ‘flow’ areas, if you need a nudge.

I sometimes have nightmares where everyone in the world is an extroverted, loud, party-loving comedian.  It makes me want to run screaming with hands over ears to a deserted beach.

Think about the people in your life and how you value their differences.  I am guessing they don’t all have to be good at every single thing to be valued by you.

What are your signature strengths?  And what are you willing to leave to the experts?  Can you embrace yourself as you are today?

Happy accepting!  Alanda

The Fast Freeway to Happiness: Gratitude

gratitude pic 2Such a beautifully simple method for happiness!  Such compelling robust research evidence to show that it actually works.  Resisting would indeed be bloody-minded.

 And yet…trouble is, everywhere you look there are gratitude pushers.  Engraving the word on rocks, putting it on billboards, there are even several versions in clip art for goodness sake!

Then somehow gratitude starts to become devoid of meaning, even irritating.  Kind of like the way ‘don’t forget to breathe’ bumper stickers make me grit my teeth and white knuckle the steering wheel.

Let’s rescue gratitude from this horrid fate.

Because if it’s drive-thru, conveniently packaged, quick to digest happiness that you are after (and aren’t we all?), put gratitude on the menu.  Slide into your convertible Chevy Impala, tie a red kerchief over your head, and style your way right on down the highway of happiness.

Here’s how:

  1. Before bed list five things that you were grateful for today (rain for the garden, horrid coworker had the day off, yummy lunch…you know).
  2. Super-charge the benefits of the above by putting each down on a slip of paper, popping it into a jar, and reading out the excerpts at the end of each month. There are some really funky gratitude jars around.  They also make excellent gifts, especially for grumpy people.
  3. Before mindlessly placing a meal into your body, pause and share a moment of gratitude. Say it out loud.  From my 5 year old ‘thanks lambs for letting us eat you’.  Cringe!
  4. Write a letter: yes really, with a pen, stamp, envelope and everything beautifully olden-days like that. Let someone know how grateful you feel that they are in your life.  Be really specific about why.  This is happiness multiplied by two.
  5. Take a micro pause between waking and leaping out of bed. Then really appreciate the rest you just had, the sheets you are laying on, the brekkie you may eat, the people who love you.  Invigorate this process by considering the day ahead of those less fortunate than you.

Instead of enjoying our ‘who had the worst day today’ post-work gripes with each other and amplifying misery, let’s equally make room for the good stuff.  This is not ‘positive thinking’ (one of my pet hates), where we pretend that bad things are just fine or we ignore them.  No no no.  This is making sure that the beauty in our lives gets recognised too and does not get crash-tackled and completely sidelined by the heavy stuff.

I am thankful, appreciative, over the moon, stoked, having a celebratory party on the inside that I have this tool in my life!  I guess that I am grateful.

I am so getting the bumper sticker!  What are you grateful for?  Jot
5 things in the comments section, go on!

You Were Lucky! (Or how gratitude needs to come from within)

‘You were lucky to live in the bottom of a lake! There were 150 of us living in a shoebox in the middle of the road…we dreamed of living in a lake!’

…Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’

 

This famed Monty Python skit shows four men having a discussion about their childhoods, culminating in what amounts to a contest about who had the direst conditions growing up. After each increasingly outlandish assertion, such as ‘eating gravel off road for breakfast’, the refrain from the others was, ‘You were lucky!’

 

This skit always cracks me up because, as with all good comedy, it takes a basic quirk of human nature and blows it up larger than life. The underlying theme shows our tendency to want to our difficulties to be acknowledged, not topped by another. It also demonstrates our propensity to magnify our suffering, at times beyond all proportion, if others minimise our troubles. Not a helpful dynamic!

 

I had a great reminder of this during the week when I was privileged to see in therapy a very staunch man who had been wiped out by a careless driver. He was doing all that he could to get better and still his suffering was unavoidably immense. At the end of our session, he somewhat shame-facedly admitted there was once thing that was driving him a bit crazy in the responses of those around him.

 

Yep: ‘You were lucky!’ He wondered what was so lucky about the pain and disability he was enduring. About missing work, his beloved sports, isolation from his mates, inability to help his family, and so on the list went. Yes, he knew that it was great to be alive. Don’t worry; he had thanked his God numerous times! But he wondered why people felt the need to continually reinforce this whilst almost willfully ignoring his many new troubles.

 

Is it too broad a generalisation to say that we in the Western world are uncomfortable with the dark emotions? Probably. And yet, I think ‘You were lucky’ is partly a function of that. People shuffle their feet before speaking to the widow at the funeral, and say such sage things as ‘Ah well he is in a better place now’. Great.

 

This is why people present for therapy: to tell the WHOLE story of how they feel. Not just the sanitised version of emotions found to be acceptable by the general public. Lifting the veil of ‘positive thinking’ we can get to the real stuff underneath, the emotions that make up all of our lives. Not that a therapist is the only person who can do this; any human can. It’s about being brave enough to visit the dark places with a person as well as the light places for which we are all grateful.

 

There is compelling research to show that gratitude is one strand of happiness. However, in my experience, telling people how lucky they are often just makes them focus on what feels bad or even worse, guilts them up with feelings of being ungrateful. See what happens the next time you are with someone who is having a hard time of it, and you acknowledge both sides of their story. Perhaps the connection this brings will really bless all involved.

 

Soon, I will start running groups for people with pain, injuries and illness. The groups will assist with having a better life whilst living with these difficult situations. One thing I will NOT be telling participants is how lucky they are. I hope that people might come to this conclusion themselves after we have explored the grief and used our mindfulness and other skills to learn more about living with these conditions.

 

Groups will start in August and run weekly (1.5 hours per week) for four weeks. There will be a maximum of 10 participants in each group. I have regularly noticed in the past how powerful the group situation is for people with physical suffering, as there are others present who do understand the difficulties experienced, and the group can share strategies in addition to those presented by myself.

Please call (07) 5473 5238 for further information or visit the pain management tab of www.sunshinepsychology.com.au