Gratitude and appreciation are two powerful weapons we can use against depression and anxiety.
In fact, Dan Baker writes in his book, What Happy People Know, that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time.
Here, then, are some ways we can cultivate gratitude.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
According to psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California-Riverside, keeping a gratitude journal —where you record once a week all the things you have to be grateful for — and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue. In my daily mood journal, I make a list of each day’s “little joys,” moments that I would fail to appreciate if I didn’t make myself record them, such as: “holding my daughter’s hand on the way to the car,” “a hot shower,” “helping my son with his homework.” This exercise reminds me of all the blessings in my life I take for granted and encourages me to appreciate those mundane moments that can be sources of joy.
2. Use the right words.
According to Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman, words literally can change your brain. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, they write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Positive words, such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. According to the authors, they propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency.
“Gratitude is the heart’s memory,” says the French proverb. Therefore, one of the first steps to thankfulness is to remember those in our lives who have walked with us and shown kindness for deeds big and small. I have been extremely fortunate to have so many positive mentors in my life. At every scary crossroad, there was a guardian or messenger there to help me find my way. The mere exercise of remembering such people can cultivate gratitude in your life.
4. Write thank-you letters.
According to psychologist Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, a powerful exercise to cultivate gratitude is to compose a “gratitude letter” to a person who has made a positive and lasting influence in your life.
Emmons says the letter is especially powerful when you have not properly thanked the person in the past, and when you read the letter aloud to the person face to face. I do this as part of my holiday cards, especially to former professors or teachers who helped shape my future and inspired me in ways they might not know.
5. Hang with the winners.
Peer pressure never really goes away, you know. Studies show that married folks hanging out with happy couples are more likely to stay married themselves; that if your friends eat well, their willpower will rub off on you; and that if you surround yourself with optimists, you will end up more positive than if you keep company with a bunch of whiners. By merely sitting next to a person who likes the words “thank you,” there is a high probability that you will start using those words as well.
6. Give back.
A while back I wanted to repay a former professor of mine for all his encouragement and support to me throughout the years. However, nothing I could do would match his kindness. No letter of appreciation. No visit to his classrooms. So I decided I would help some young girl who fell into my path in the same way that he helped me. I would try to help and inspire this lost person just as he had done for me.
Giving back doesn’t mean reciprocating favors so that everything is fair and the tally is even. That’s the beauty of giving. If someone does an act of kindness for you, one way to say thanks is to do the same for another.
Originally posted on Everyday Health.
Like all relationships, our relationships with ourselves are strengthened by time, attention, and respect. Through the course of a day, we can make countless large and small choices to honor the truth of who we are and what it is that we believe. We can strengthen ourselves and support our own development by making these choices in the way that is truly right for us. We can also focus our attention on the honoring of our truth in specific and deliberate ways so that we can feel more fully expressed and more completely alive.
01 Creativity: Speak it, dance it, write it, draw it, play it. Creative mediums give form to what is true inside of us. The medium itself can draw out, refine, and help us see our truth in a different way. Once it is outside of us, we can see it from a new, more objective angle.
02 Livelihood: When we live out a major part of our life in a way that is right for us, it is a way of honoring the truth of who we are. Do something that you love with people whom you love, and you will feel a sense of authenticity—not to mention joy—permeate your life.
03 Ritual: Like creativity, ritual gives us a medium to express what is most important to us. You can use ritual to honor yourself directly or to honor deities, animals, and plants that represent things that are important to you. Taking the time to do something where the main purpose is to acknowledge, mark, or clarify intention strengthens our connection to what is important.
04 Communication: Especially if you tend to hold your words back, learning to speak what is true for you throughout your life and with all people is a powerful way to honor yourself. No more hiding, adjusting, or omitting. Know and speak your truth as often as you can.
05 Dream: There is what is true now, and then there is the truth that will emerge over time. One can be an echo of the other. We can honor ourselves by letting ourselves envision our futures, feel our potential, and dream our desires.
When we honor what is most true about us, what we most value, what is most important—that is when we strengthen ourselves, show ourselves respect, and create avenues for our full expression in the world.
Great relationships develop not from the absence of conflict, but from determining an agreeable pattern for how to resolve conflict. Defining the rules of engagement for how you “fight” with someone you care about is ultimately much more important than trying to never have a disagreement.
If you care about someone, then consider adopting these 10 rules as part of the way you communicate with them when you are trying to resolve a conflict:
Rule #1: Don’t yell. Adding emotion clouds the clarity of what actually happened. If the other person is yelling, it becomes especially important that you don’t raise your voice so as to prevent a natural escalation of competing interests.
Rule #2: Always start and end the conversation by affirming that you care about the other person. In the midst of a disagreement, you can never underestimate the power and importance of reminding the other person that you care about them and believe in them.
Rule #3: Be open to the idea that you made a mistake even if you are sure you did not. People rarely get upset for no reason, so there is a good chance that there is at least a kernel of truth to what they are saying.
Rule #4: Don’t speak in generalities of another person’s behavior; speak only to direct examples and instances of action. It’s hard for anyone to own up to a generalization and so you’ll likely just see his or her defensiveness activate. By isolating an instance of fact, everyone can quickly see where he or she was right and wrong.
Rule #5: Always work to be the first to apologize when any dispute arises. Although the idea of waiting for the other person to apologize first seems vindicating, it’s actually a guaranteed sign of how you care more about being right than in coming to a reconciliation.
Rule #6: Focus on trying to discover what’s right, not who is right. When thinking about what happened, try to remove yourself from the situation and evaluate right and wrong based solely on the actions that took place regardless of which side you’re on. Treat it as if you are refereeing someone else’s game.
Rule #7: Do not cuss. Exaggerated language is often proof of an exaggerated understanding of what actually happened. If you swear, the other party is likely to only hear the expletives and will stop listening for any validity in what you’re saying.
Rule 8: No name-calling. Belittling a person always shifts the focus off of resolving the actual problem. Verbal abuse is never welcome to a conflict resolution party.
Rule #9: Remind yourself the other person also cares about reconciling the relationship. One of the fundamental causes of many disagreements is feeling hurt that the other person is no longer considering your perspective, but if they didn’t care about a resolution with you they wouldn’t be fighting for one.
Rule #10: Remind yourself to never expect the other person to fill a hole in your life that only they can fill. Sometimes we fall into the trap of placing improper expectations on other people because we are hoping for them to satisfy a need in our life that they are not really capable of satisfying.
If we are fighting with someone, it means we both care about finding the best course of action and we both care about preserving the relationship. If we didn’t care about one another, then we would just ignore each other and leave.
The reason these 10 rules are important is because as long as they are in place, then no disagreement or conflict will ever shake the critical bedrock of knowing that the other person cares about you. As long as we know the other person cares about us, it will give us a common ground to work from as we try to unite two seemingly conflicted views.
Many of us believe that we should “just know how” to relate in ways that bring us happiness. However, creating healthy and fulfilling relationships is an art and a practice. Before we get into some tools for creating more fulfilling relationships take a moment to look at some of the components of a healthy relationship. The following is not an exhaustive list but it will help set the stage:
Open communication: knowing what you think and feel and being willing to share it.
Trust: behaving in a way that is trustworthy, fostering trust, and being more trusting.
Respect: understanding that the other person is an individual and should not be criticized for not being like you or any other person.
Love: I like the expression, “Love is a verb.” Healthy relationships seek to continually work to foster love through behavior.
Integrity: the understanding that each person has his or her own path and it is not loving to take them off their path.
Partnership: the desire to share life ― its struggles and its joys.
Tool #1: The first tool is to figure out what each one of these categories mean to you –and to your partner. By writing down a sentence or two describing each of these components of a fulfilling relationship you will understand better how to create them in your relationship.
Tool #2: To maintain the love inside and outside of ourselves, we need to give it regular and careful attention. If you find yourself feeling frustrated or disconnected with someone close to you, see if you can take a moment to think of three to five positive traits ― things you love about the person. You can do this with your partner or your friend or a parent. You can even take an extra step and tell the person one or more of the things that you really value about them.
Tool #3: Sometimes we block the love coming from another person because of our own inability to feel worthy of love. If you find that you are disconnected or judgmental, check in with yourself to see if you really love yourself. If you are not sure, what is your self-care like? Are you eating, sleeping, attending to responsibilities, and having fun? If not, the problem might not be with the other person ― it might actually be with you.
Tool #4: Do you feel that a person or certain people should be there for you no matter what? No matter how you act, no matter how you treat them, no matter whether they show up for themselves or not? Sometimes we think that a person showing up in this way means that they truly love us. This is more the case in a parent-child relationship. However, in a peer relationship or partnership, expecting this is not about love ― it is about dependency. Check yourself; see if you want someone to take care of you ― whether it is emotionally, financially, or physically instead of creating true adult relationships and deeper love.
This week on Real Answers Radio, Dr. Kate offers simple tools that you can start using immediately. If you are craving more from your relationships – more caring, more connection, more meaning – then this show is for you!
Dr. Kate always welcomes your questions and this week’s show is the perfect opportunity to call in with your most pressing relationships questions and get the real answers you need.
While many of us subconsciously believe that we use language to objectively represent reality, the research says otherwise. The research supports the idea that language creates reality. In other words, it is not only true that we are what we eat, but it is also true that we live what we believe.
Language has tremendous power of suggestion the more we “suggest” something, the more likely we are to take action that makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let’s look at some statements I have heard over the past few weeks:
The feelings behind these words are very powerful, but what reality do they invite when repeated again and again? The truth is, it doesn’t take long to convince ourselves (and others) that we really can’t …., don’t know how to ….., will never be able to ….., aren’t as smart as ….., and so on. The more we state it, the more we believe it, the quicker it becomes reality.
But what if the opposite were also possible? What if language could also create a more positive, hopeful and empowered reality than the one we are currently experiencing?
In a 2010 TED Talk, Caroline Casey shares a truly extraordinary experience confirming the absolute power of suggestion in the mind – the way in which language creates reality. (Because I do not want to ruin the impact of this talk, no synopsis, just a “must watch” link.)
The scientific research community supports this claim as well. In a 2013, Scientific American article, Your Thoughts Can Release Abilities Beyond Your Normal Limits, you can read about research studies in which outcomes of control groups vs. experimental groups are altered solely based upon the power of suggestion.
So, as you are going about your day, navigating what life places in front of you, here are some suggestions for leveraging the power of suggestion to point you in a more positive, empowered and hopeful direction:
Adopt the word “yet.”
Whenever someone tells me they do not know the answer to a question or don’t know how to do something, I teach them to include the simple word “yet” at the end of the statement. “I don’t know how to look for a job – yet.” ‘Yet’ definitively suggests that the knowledge or understanding is on its way, rather than completely unavailable.
Focus on “what went right”
Virtually every moment of very day gives us the opportunity to choose how to focus our thoughts and attention. Are you upset because it is raining or feeling grateful because you remembered to bring an umbrella? Do you beat yourself up because you burned the dinner or pat yourself on the back because you have a great back up plan – ice cream for dinner at the end of a hot summer day is one of my favorites! Do you panic all the way to work because you spilled coffee on your suit, or walk into your meeting and recognize this as an opportunity to give your stressed-out staff permission to be human and imperfect. Our mind is wired to notice the negative, and we can train it to see the positive.
Replace “must,” “have to,” and “need to” with WANT
How many times per day do we walk around saying things like, I have to…., I need to…., I must….. These phrases lock us into narrow places. I accomplish them and I avert disaster or a negative outcome; I do not fully achieve them and I am a failure. Either way, my reality is a narrow place of bordered on one side by temporary and fleeting moments of safety and bordered on the other by failure and demise. When I “want” to do something, it refocuses our thoughts and attention on what there is to gain, opportunities that are available, and what makes us happy.
As in Caroline’s story, language alone is not sufficient to create reality, but language coupled with belief is what points the needle of life’s compass in a particular direction. Once the needle is pointing where you want to go, then it is about taking action in that direction.
So if you have been standing on the fence about a decision, beating yourself up for failures or falling short, or notice that your mind spends most of its time consumed with the negative, try intentionally shifting a few of those 15,000+ utterances per day in a new direction. And when you are clear about wanting to point the needle in a new direction and take the actions to get there, contact me. I am eager to journey with you to a new reality.
Adina Laver is the author of the Divorce Companion™ and founder of Divorce Essentials™, a specialized divorce coaching and support service for those who are considering, in the midst of, or post-divorce and are committed to a healthy path for reclaiming their lives.
Practicing these 7 steps with a genuine intention for understanding will go a long way in our ability to understand and to relate to someone’s experience.
1. Make eye contact.
2. Ask questions (and really want to hear the answer). Try these:
3. Listen. It seems obvious, but we often think we are listening when instead we are formulating our response. Don’t talk. Don’t tell the other person how they feel. Don’t offer advice. Just listen.
4. Empathize. Affirm their feelings. Whether you agree or disagree with the individual, how they feel is how they feel. It is possible to be a good listener and not necessarily agree. You don’t need to tell them why you don’t agree. Offer moral support. Here are some empathetic statements:
5. Wait. Usually the person will give you a sense of what they would like from you. All they may have wanted was for you to listen. Or they may ask: What do you think? What would you do? as a way to solicit advice. Or they may have more to share. Keep listening. And in case you haven’t seen it, this video always makes me laugh, as it pokes fun at a man’s desire to problem solve and a woman’s desire for listening.
6. Share. Vulnerability is a two-way street. Connection doesn’t occur unless both people are willing to be vulnerable. You can’t have all the benefits of connection without being vulnerable yourself. Connection develops when you let yourself be seen. If you aren’t sure what to say, tell them you don’t know what to say. We don’t want perfection. We want authenticity. We want you next to us in the arena. Get uncomfortable.
7. Compliment. Compliments are only powerful if they are genuine. We often hold back from offering compliments because we think the person already knows the trait we admire. Maybe. Maybe not. Offering a compliment can make someone’s day.
reblogged from Lorena Knapp’s website Big State, Big Life: Tools for mindful living.
Having effective communication skills is imperative for your success. Positive communication will certainly increase the opportunities you find in your career and business. Having good communication skills will enable you to get ahead in certain areas where others who are less assertive may not succeed. A few things to keep your eyes on while practicing the fine art of communication are:
Do not shy away from the person with whom you are speaking. Be sure to maintain a relaxed, but not slouching posture, regardless whether you are the one speaking or listening. Other things that ensure your body is communicating your attentiveness to the conversation can include:
Speech and Attentiveness
When speaking, you need to be clear and concise. Speak on important matters directly and do not waste time with long drawn out stories that will cause your listener’s mind to wander. Make sure you ask whether they understand, and be willing to further explain any of your points. Do not expect someone to just “know” what you are saying, even if it is crystal clear in your own mind. In addition, one of the most important aspects of verbal communication is the ability to practice active listening. This is not just actively waiting to talk. Always make mental notes of key points when someone is speaking to you. That way once you are given a chance to speak, you can respond to the most vital issues being dealt with. When others are speaking, try to think about the exact words that they are saying. If you practice this, you will comprehend and contain 75 percent more of the information that you hear.
Maybe your weakness is in the quality or quantity with which you communicate to your employees. Communication seems to have dwindled to superficial small talk. Great communicators practice the ability of consistent communication by remaining available. Do not be afraid to be the one who voices any concerns or difficulties. However, ensure that you are practicing open and honest communication with those who may depend on you. Be available and bold with tact. Be sure to leave communication lines open to those who may need to address problems with you. You will find that you prevent the small issues that normally have the habit of becoming large ones by making those in your life aware that you are open to discussing issues at any time.
During your communications with others always give them time to communicate their issues as well. Remaining focused on what they are trying to communicate will show them that you are indeed open to assisting with their issues. Many of people’s communication lines tend to break down on the side where impatience is in a rush to get out of the conversation. Since you cannot control the other side, do yourself a favor and take a breath. The conversation you’re involved in is important.
If you are confused as to what someone may be requesting, than repeat back to him or her what you think they said and ask if that is correct. Often this will inspire the speaker to be more in-depth about their needs, which will help you to understand them fully.
Practicing Effective Communication Skills
If someone has communicated a need or an issue to you, then your main priority should be to aid him or her in repairing the problem. Following up on an issue is the only way to convince others whom you need to communicate with that you have listened to them and that their problems or issues are important to you as well.
Practicing strong follow-up will also leave the impression that you are involved in the bigger picture. When people see this commitment, they will know you are open to future communications. This creates a loyal and discerning surrounding that cultivates positive movement and communication. This will develop a strong sense of confidence in those with whom you communicate.