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The Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful and scientific way to shift your mindset and influence your body’s chemistry. Most of the time we react to life through a system of filters. These filters are our default ‘survival system’ and their purpose is to keep us safe. Although we need these filters, sometimes they can become a hindrance. This can occur when we experience traumatic or highly stressful situations. Our systems may become hypervigilant, always looking for signs of danger, and seeing danger in places it may not actually be.

There is SO much information coming into our brain every second (from outside and inside of us) that, in order to process it, our minds group, distort, delete or generalise. (We are exposed to over 2 million bits of information/data per second - our brain can only process about 134 bits of information/data per second! When we have experienced trauma, it can be even less). Your brain and NS is always looking for cues of danger and cues of safety, it then filters the information; deletes, distorts or generalises, and reacts. These groupings and generalisations can mean your nervous system creates a blanket response to anything that may remind it of the stressful situation.

Here are some examples:

- If you had a scary experience with a dog as a young child (you may not even remember) you may find your heart rate increasing and a feeling of being unsafe arise whenever you see a dog.

- If you got a fright from a balloon popping at your 1st birthday party you may experience a strong

nervous system response to any loud and unexpected noise. You may begin to avoid noisy places in a bid to reduce your exposure to potential frights. This can affect your quality of life and opportunities for new experiences.

- If you expereinced a moment, in a public place, where you felt unsafe your system may generalise all public places as unsafe. You may begin to find yourself greatly restricted in your ability to feel safe in public.

The same goes for pleasant feelings - if you received a lot of positive praise for a certain behavior as a child you may inadvertently default to this way of communicating or acting in order to gain the love or approval of another. You may believe that, unless you are praised repeatedly, you are not deserving of love.

And so on......

The world can feel like an unsafe place to a hypervigilant nervous system and your filtration system can become ‘negative biased’ - always focusing on the negative or scary and finding it less and less possible to see the good or pleasant. This is where the PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE comes in - by intentionally creating a feeling of gratitude, good fortune or thankfulness, for even the smallest thing, you teach your nervous system how to look for the good, the pleasant and the safe in life. It’s like training to increase your physical strength or fitness - you need to regularly do the work in order to see the benefit - your NS and brain work in the same way as your muscles do.

So what are some of the benefits of a regular gratitude practice?

In an article from the author says

“ Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.
As a result, being grateful also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

Here’s a link to the full article if you’re interested in further reading.

Other researched and scientifically proven benefits of a regular gratitude practice include:

● Improvements in physical and psychological health.

● Enhanced empathy.

● Reduced aggression.

● Improved relationships.

● Better sleep.

● Improved self esteem.

● Increased mental strength.

A gratitude practice can be as simple as taking a moment to reflect on something or someone you feel grateful for. It can be anything - from the blue sky, to your favorite chocolate, to a good friend or a loving pet. The physiological benefit of gratitude can be felt whether the thing you are grateful for is small, large or somewhere in between.

So, why not give it a try?

You can get started with the downloadable worksheet below...

Maybe keep a gratitude diary, or carve out a time in your day to spend with your gratitude practice - setting a rhythm can be helpful. For example, perhaps each morning when you sit down to breakfast you take a moment to identify and feel grateful for something. Or maybe in the evening, or in the shower or even on the loo!

Whatever works for you is the best choice.

Gratitude practice (1)
Download PDF • 64KB


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