“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ― Harry A. Ironside
So, as we draw close to very important American Holiday, “Thanksgiving”, I want to say thank you my friends, clients and colleagues! Thank you for all the ways you enhance my life and bring value to this world! As I have focused more this year in my coaching on better understanding how our brains work and how small things can have big impact – I thought I’d share a bit about the tremendous power of thankfulness and some basic tips to being thankful. Your heart and your brain will thank you!
1) Away vs. Towards– practicing a positive focus allowing our brains to rewire habits and behaviors. In my training on the brain, we have learned some important things about being in an “Away” state versus a “Toward” State. When basic human and social needs are threated such as our status, our autonomy, our sense of fairness, etc. Our brains treat threats with the same intensity as physical threats. There is a physical reaction in our brains and bodies when we are focusing on an “Away” state and it isn’t pleasant! It causes our brains to “spin” and to lose the ability to effectively process.
2) Practice, Practice, Practice! Our capacity to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others is reduced by a threat response and increased under a reward response. I don’t know about you, but I need all the brain power I can muster each day in my interactions with others and in my problem solving to accomplish my tasks. Having more energy and an increased ability to consider possibilities has been very powerful for me as I make a practice of focusing on a “Toward” state. I now stop, focus and consider the possibilities of what is going well, not just reacting to an immediate response about what is going wrong. Discovering that I can literally rewire my brain by practicing new habits, I have increased my ability to be in a more “Toward” state. My excellent coach, Cathy Graham, of Cathy Graham Coaching, worked with me for several months and through her encouragement and support, I have learned to focus more on the positive rewards and accomplishments in my life. The result is that I feel more encouraged, more energized and more hopeful on a regular basis. As I work with my clients, I see the same results. Today one of my clients said, “Here’s the point. I don’t even have the same negative thoughts anymore! I am accomplishing so many positive things, the thoughts aren’t even there!” I was so excited for her as she has nailed every one of her actions the last two sessions! That provides a lot of positive energy for both of us! The bottom line: Once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. That’s how the virtuous cycle that our brains like to function in gets created.
3) An Attitude of Gratitude Impacts our Overall Health: Numerous studies have been done about the results of less pain experienced by adults who kept a weekly gratitude journal and about the impact on depression, insomnia and anxiety experienced by adults who experienced gratitude regularly in their lives. (Ng et all 2012). The National Institute of Health found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. (Zahn et al, 2009). This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a major influence on your metabolism and stress levels.
4) We all have so much to be thankful for – take a moment and consider some of those things on the eve of this Thanksgiving 2013. Do your brain and heart a huge favor and practice the art of gratitude. Join me in focusing on your accomplishments, your blessings and all that you have to be grateful for. I hope you will join me in making this a truly wonderful and inspiring Thanksgiving!
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