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.
Here’s a list of the elements I consider essential to living a deeply fulfilling life.
Does one of these essential elements particularly resonate with you? If so, I suggest that you write it down and put it somewhere you will see it every day. Every little reminder you create for yourself will help you stay on track!
Note from Kate
I make a point of paying attention to anyone who appears graceful under fire. There is so much to learn from people who are able to stay positive in difficult situations. I’m not talking about people who use positive thinking as a way to skirt or deny difficulty. I’m talking about people who are able to deeply accept the reality of a difficult situation and make the choice to move in the most positive direction available.
This week I offer a story from my life that gave me serious practice in accepting the reality of a difficult situation and remaining positive in the face of it.
Staying Positive in the Harder Times
One year ago, a former client decided that she did not want to pay after taking my whole program and even writing a positive testimonial. She filed a complaint against me with the licensing board saying that I had coerced her into taking the program.
This was a fantastic act of vengeance. The licensing board does not require those who file a complaint to submit proof of misconduct or payment for the investigation. Once filed, the complaint must be investigated. The person being investigated – also known as the licensee – must then prove their innocence through excessive documentation and often with expensive legal support. Further, the licensee cannot seek repayment because it can be interpreted as retaliation.
A couple weeks ago, the board dismissed the claim. Their investigation proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the complaint was an act of a desperate person trying not to pay. I’ve finally completed the extensive paperwork that I needed to file to end this investigation and it has made me wonder:
What was it that helped me make it though this challenging experience with relative ease?
It’s one thing to be positive when everything is going OK. It’s another thing to keep a positive attitude when the going gets tough.
To be honest, when this complaint was first filed I panicked. I felt like my survival was put in jeopardy. I watched my mind race to find a solution. I got angry. I felt like a victim. I felt guilty. I wanted to hide. I went right into the heart of negativity. My response was so extreme that when I took a step back and observed myself I realized – it’s REALLY unhealthy to feel like this. I needed to do something. So I asked myself: Kate, what do you really know?
What I know is that it’s not about what happens in life – it’s about how you deal with it. And, how you deal with it makes a huge impact on the outcome.
Put It in Perspective
I remember reading this book right before I had my son called “How to Raise Capable People.” In the book, the author said that if no real negative outcome came out of a child’s request, then you should let them do it. So, for example, if your child wants to go outside without a coat, let them. If they eventually get cold, they’ll put a coat on. This had a profound impact on me. I started looking at situations in my life to see whether a situation truly had a negative impact or if I imagined that the impact would be negative.
When my former client filed a complaint against me, I immediately perceived that my livelihood was threatened. I thought about whether or not this was true and it turns out that it wasn’t. I had held onto my license for the benefit of a couple clients. Yet, in reality all of my work was outside the medical model. Even if I was found guilty, the licensing board’s decision would not directly effect my business. Once I put the situation in perspective, I was able to remove a layer of stress and begin to respond proactively.
But, what if this hadn’t been the case. What if the outcome of the investigation had a really horrible impact on some aspect of my life? In this case, I would want an accurate view of the potential consequences so that I could explore what I could do to limit the negative impact. I could even re-frame my thinking to see the positive things that might result from this forced change of direction.
When navigating a difficult situation, the most important thing is to stay in the clearest and truest part of yourself. At its best, personal development work helps you tune into and connect with a deeper part of yourself. In this deeper part, you see things for what they truly are. When we are connected to this part of ourselves we know that even if things are difficult now, everything will ultimately be OK. We’re able to remember that things that look bad in one light, might actually look good in another light.
This clarity is important because it helps us make the best possible choice in a difficult situation and not react out of fear. When we stay with our clarity, our perspective broadens. In fact, we see our possibilities for solution expand rather than contract.
Practice Compassion and Forgiveness
While I dealt with this issue throughout this year, I went through times where I was angry. However, I knew that indulging my desire to blame would not serve me. In fact, every moment that I spent angry or blaming others kept me embroiled in a situation that was the opposite of what I wanted to create in my life.
Staying positive does a great deal to stop the cycle of harm. The bottom line is that hurt people do hurtful things. We all harbor stories about how other people have wronged us. Yet, a glimpse from their perspective might make their actions more understandable. We can hold onto our stories to insure that we feel in the right. Or we can let go of our stories and offer compassion and forgiveness for those who have wronged us. Ultimately, the latter creates a much happier and more positive life.
You have probably heard me say this a bunch by now but your life is what you make it. If it is lacking passion then, it is your job to bring it back. Sometimes, this requires a mental shift. Sometimes, this requires taking action to create more of what we want in our external life. A little of both can go a long way.
Recognize that passion wears different faces:
Pay attention to what a passionate life really means to you. Maybe it looks different in different parts of your life. Maybe passion at work looks different than passion with your lover, or passion about a topic. How do you know you are passionately engaged with each aspect of your life? Write it out so that you can clearly see when things are what you want them to be.
It is hard to feel passionate when we are under lock and key. If we are afraid to be vulnerable, we lose out on feeling connected to ourselves and really known by another person. Sometimes, showing love and showing joy can be as vulnerable or even more than when we need to show weakness. Are there places where you have a hard time being vulnerable? How can you open up those parts of your life?
Clean up your messes:
Baggage weighs us down and holds us back. When we live with a lot of unresolved stuff it stops us from being present and passionate in our lives. What grudges are you holding onto? What pain from your past is it time to let go of? Find a way to clear your past so that you can be in the present.
Let go of limiting beliefs about what is fun and what is not:
Work is not fun. Vacation is fun. Even if we don’t totally buy into that idea the vestiges of it –like I was mentioning in my note- are there nonetheless. If we think more about an attitude of passion or joy instead of an experience giving it to us then we might be a lot happier. What does an attitude of passion or joy mean to you? How can you cultivate it?
Express your anger:
Anger and passion are on the same continuum. If you have totally shut down your anger, it will be very hard to experience a passionate life. This does not mean that you should be ranting and raving all the time. It just means that if you tend to say that you “never get angry”, you might want to take a look if what you are really saying is you don’t let yourself feel angry or that you are actually being apathetic.
Make time for it:
Everything important deserves its time. If you want more of something in your life, make a point of scheduling time to bring more of it in. Just by answering these questions and making some quick changes you will see a passion infusion in your life.
How long has it been since you leaped out of bed and excitedly entered your new day? Have you stopped thinking that was even possible? Being passionately connected to our lives is possible and here are some practical ways to do it. Join Dr. Kate along with special guest Sexual Empowerment expert and thought leader, Amy Jo Goddard as they discuss ways bring passion to every area of how you live on this weeks Real Answers Radio.
I have to be honest about how I typically deal with my distaste for winter – I get the heck out and go somewhere warm! While I will be making some trips to warmer climates this winter, I still try to find ways to be happier and more at peace when I find myself wishing I had three jackets on instead of only one. This – and any situation that makes us uncomfortable – is a great chance to reflect on how to find happiness with what IS rather than seeking to change our situation.
Of course, when we have the power to change our circumstances for the better, I believe we should take it (i.e. hit the beach in some tropical destinations for some fun and sun). But, sometimes what we are experiencing in life is beyond our control –just like the weather. When that is the case, the only thing that we have control over is ourselves – our thoughts, emotions and actions. Here are 5 ways to cultivate happiness in your day to day life, no matter what comes your way.
1. Start Positive – The first few moments of your day make a real imprint on how the rest of it goes. Start with a moment to be quiet, an affirmation, journaling or any other way that helps you start your day centered and focused.
2. Look For It – What you focus on gets bigger. Unfortunately, we often focus on what makes us unhappy rather than the things that make our day better. Make an effort to recognize what is going well and what you do enjoy.
3. Be Clear On What Makes You Happy – This may seem like a no brainer but it is actually something that we overlook. What most brings you pleasure and happiness? Alone time or social time? A good home cooked meal or enjoying take out and a movie? Becoming conscious of the things you most enjoy means that you will choose them more often.
4. Say “Thank You” – Whether it be to yourself, your partner, your child or a co-worker. Express your gratitude for what is working as often as possible. Expressing your appreciation will immediately make you and the other person feel more positive. It also reinforces the liked behavior so that you are more likely to see more of it.
5. Slow Down – Slow down and savor the good parts of your life. Pay attention when you are eating something delicious or really listen when talking to a friend. Or take the time to notice what is around you on your daily walk or drive. The more you can be present with your 5 senses and what you are experiencing, the better.
Life is always a mix of things. No matter how bad a day seems, there is always something there that is positive as well. Using the list above will help you to collect the good out the simple, daily events of your life and can drastically increase your happiness.
What to hear more on this topic? Join Dr. Kate on her weekly radio show Real Answers, Thursdays at 12pm EST. This week she will be further discussing how to find (and stay!) happy in the day to day.
“Relationships are mysterious. We doubt the positive qualities in others, seldom the negative. You will say to your partner: do you really love me? Are you sure you love me? You will ask this a dozen times and drive the person nuts. But you never ask: are you really mad at me? Are you sure you’re angry? When someone is angry, you don’t doubt it for a moment. Yet the reverse should be true. We should doubt the negative in life, and have faith in the positive.” ― Christopher Pike, Remember Me
The holiday season brings up feelings of stress and lack for many of us. I personally find myself thinking about the gifts I cannot afford to buy, the tensions in my family relationships and the things that did not happen in a year drawing to a close.
I came across the above quote today and it spoke to me very strongly and inspired me to try to reframe all that is to come in the next weeks. I am personally committing to being more positive, during this time and end my year the way I hope to begin my new one – with compassion, patience and joy – and I invite you to take the challenge with me.
Lets commit to taking time to pause, to reflect and to focus on the good that we do have, not our places of lack. To focus on what is good and right about our lives and especially our relationships instead of the places where they are painful. To celebrate the end of the year by celebrating the areas of our life where there is abundance, where there has been growth and where we are proud and joyful.
One of the ways I am staying focused on the positive is by taking 10 minutes to write about what I am grateful for from now until the last day of the year. Join me in this exercise and lets end this year on a positive note no matter WHAT comes our way.
Blessings to you in this very special, potent and beautiful time of year!
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.
What ever goes on within the confines of your mind will surely reflect on your outside actions. What does that mean? What you think about and how you think about them will determine the level of income you earn, the type of house you live in, the type of car you drive, the type of relationships you have, etc. Take a look at what you have right now. Everything that you have around you will tell you what type of thoughts you grant attention to.
This can make a real impact on your life. Since your most dominant thoughts will determine the type of actions you take which will determine the type of lifestyle you live, it would be best to expand your mind by learning all that you can. A person who only knows of working for wages cannot hope to attain the millionaire mark. But by learning and applying different and honorable ways to earn income, the chances of attaining such a mark increase. I know we all have thought, “I’ve heard that before. It’s nothing new”. But that is precisely why so many people still work for wages and a small amount earn giant amounts of income. Because one may have heard helpful information before, doesn’t mean that one utilizes it.
It is not enough to just “know” about something. It’s useless if you don’t put it to practical use. Here is one secret to success: Listen from those who have gone to where you want to go (i.e. books, mentors, programs, seminars), apply those steps to your own venture, and leave nature no choice but to send success your way. This alone will entirely change the way you think. Therefore, changing your actions and creating a different set of results you wouldn’t have gotten if you didn’t apply the one secret to success. This also works on other aspects other than money. The bottom line: Expand your mind in the direction you want to go, exceed your limits, and create desired results.
Reblogged from the Success Coach Corner
Positive psychology expert Shawn Achor — explained this week on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Happiness is the joy we feel on the way to reaching our highest potential, and happiness is a choice. “ I couldn’t agree more. If happiness is defined only by outer goals and events, it will be fleeting, unsatisfying and unsustainable. On the other hand, if you can redefine happiness (and choose to see it) as the feeling you experience as you strive to reach your highest self and highest potential – now that’s something deep, enduring, and enlivening.
Shawn’s extensive research and other recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that our society’s concept of happiness (work hard and you’ll be successful, and happiness will follow) is completely backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just fluff. This important discovery has been borne out repeatedly by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the world.
Shawn teaches how we can – in five easy steps — reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work and create more success, happiness and reward in our lives. These steps are:
Do these steps for 21 days, and you will begin to see a lasting shift in your mindset towards more positivity and happiness.
An excerpt from the article “8 Inner Keys to Greater Career Happiness and Success” at Content Loop.
Frequently, when people are unable to reach their goals, they start to look for flaws in themselves, others, or their project. They might think, “What is wrong with me?” Or, “Why is it every time I try to move forward I have problems with this person or that person?” Or, they think, “Is this even the right idea? Maybe I have been wrong about the idea from the beginning.”
Sometimes people can even miss everything that is going right because of the fact that they are looking at only part of the information — the negative part.
This results in a loss of drive, focus, enthusiasm, and happiness. Chances are, if you are losing steam, there are some habits causing this that could benefit from being remedied. For example:
Perfectionism: A perfectionist sometimes gives up before even starting. Their standards are so high that starting new tasks is difficult because there is no way to master something and begin it at the same time.
Shoulds: Some people have come to believe there are absolutes guiding their life. For example: a person believes he or she should be an accountant instead of an artist. Or that other people should have done something different. Or he or she should have known better.
Same Wrong Way: People often think their success depends on their ability to do it the way others have done it even if they are completely unlike the others they are comparing themselves to. So they compare themselves to others, looking for what is lacking. Eventually, if you look hard enough, you can find it.
The simple but profound practice of gratitude is helpful in taming all of these beasts. When we remember to be grateful for who we are, the people we have around us, and the things we have, problems like perfectionism melt away.
It is impossible to be grateful and negative at the same time. Remember to tell yourself and others what you are grateful for, what is working and what positive difference you believe it is making.