Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, Arigato, Tack (you get the idea)
There has been widespread opinion about the US elections over the past couple of weeks everywhere we turn – social media, the general media, friends, family – worldwide.
It’s bad, it’s good: it all depends on what you’re thinking. And as I’ve learned over recent years, we make up our thinking; we experience the world inside-out, not outside-in, regardless of how we perceive the world works.
So, knowing that we all have separate realities, I’m not going to talk about politics.
What has struck me over these past few weeks is that no matter what is going on in our lives or how difficult the situation (and I’m not, for one second, belittling just how difficult these things are) – US elections, the death of a friend, earthquakes, struggles with autism or the breakdown of a relationship – finding gratitude and appreciation for something else in your life is the key to resilience.
That’s timely. It’s Thanksgiving for our American friends.
The concept that we should appreciate what we have is widespread and ancient, with everyone from Jesus Christ to the Dalai Lama to Oprah telling us to be grateful. The old ‘Attitude of Gratitude!’ We have that written on our water bottles at Incognito Artists.
A journalist called Janice Kaplan turned it into a full-time job. The resulting book, **The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life, describes how Kaplan learned to “reframe” the way she thought about her husband, children, finances, career, even food and exercise—to focus more on the good in front of her than on the bad frustrating her.
I’m no scientist or journalist but I know I’ve seen that play out to great effect in my life. Some people call Sim and I, ‘Pollyanna’ playing the ‘glad’ game (it’s a book if you don’t know) but it’s actually now scientifically proven that:
People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier. It turns out that counting your blessings can actually increase your blessings.
– Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook)
I did some research because I’m such a ‘gratitude’ fan. There’s an emerging science of gratitude, pioneered by American psychologist Robert Emmons, who is featured in the book alongside many other researchers. In fact, Kaplan’s experiences unite with recent work by trail-blazing neuroscientists, cardiologists, psychologists and educators that reveals the direct effects of gratitude not just on happiness, but on romantic relationships, health and brain function. Gratitude can reduce symptoms that exacerbate diseases, and in children and youth it can help develop self-awareness and community-mindedness, even boost academic performance.
The biological understanding of gratitude is catching people’s attention. Feeling good is more than a state of the mind; it’s happening in the body. Recent studies show gratitude, and keeping a gratitude diary, can further enhance health outcomes and affect inflammation!
I think gratitude diaries are great – and what about if we just stop complaining! Play a game: try to go a week or 10 days without complaining (you have to start all over again if you do complain). This ‘Complaint Holiday’ can make a massive, positive difference to your health and how you experience your life.
The key to cultivating gratitude, according to the scientists, is to practice when you are in a positive headspace—or when you’re listening to your inner, innate wisdom and not caught up in believing your ‘stinking thinking’, is how I’d put it.
This week I invite you to play the Complaints Holiday game and practice with a gratitude journal, or at least writing down 3 things you’re grateful for that day before you go to sleep at night. Notice how you feel… and how those around you may be impacted too…
P.S. Only 32 sleeps until the big fat man in red comes down the Chimney. If you’re looking for Christmas entertainment for a private party or work event be thankful you know me. Incognito Artists can make all your Christmasses come at once!
**The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life
In this New York Times bestseller, Janice Kaplan spends a year living gratefully and transforms her marriage, family life, work and health. Her pioneering research was praised in People and Vanity Fair and hailed on TV shows including Today, The O’Reilly Factor, and CBS’s The Talk. (Amazon)