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Practicing Gratitude

Belated Happy Thanksgiving my friends. The neighbourhood I live in, here in London is home to a number of expats from the U.S. So we are quite often exposed to American holidays especially Halloween and Thanksgiving. Personally we don’t do much at home for Thanksgiving here, but we did celebrate when we lived in New York. I really love this holiday and last week I got so nostalgic looking at old pictures from our New York days. I was re-living our Thanksgiving moments and dinners and relishing it.

What I did do last week with some of my clients and family was request them to make a gratitude list. Very often we get caught up in the day-to-day – caring for our families, working, putting out fires, dealing with daily situations and focussing on things that simply need to get done. We often forget to be present, take stock of our lives and give thanks.

Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology. I’m sure I’ll be able to come here and share more on this in depth when I start my Masters in Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology in January. Practicing gratitude means paying attention to what we are thankful for to the degree of feeling more kind and compassionate toward the world at large. It can motivate people to make positive changes in their lives. Studies show that people can deliberately cultivate gratitude by literally counting their blessings and writing letters of thanks, for example. This proactive acknowledgement can increase wellbeing, health, and happiness. Being grateful—and especially the expression of it—is also associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

For those who are not lucky enough to have inherited the gratitude gene, expressing gratitude may take a bit more effort, but it can be accomplished fairly easily by making gratitude a habit.

I’m sharing this excerpt from an article in Psychology Today and here are five ways, offered by Dr. Robert Emmons, one of the world's leading researchers on gratitude, to strengthen that habit:

1. Keep a gratitude journal: Keeping a journal to remind yourself of the people you are grateful for and the things in your life that you enjoy is a great way to reinforce the habit of gratitude. The things you write down don't have to be extraordinary experiences that happen in your life. They can (and should) be ordinary every-day events that make you happy and appreciative.

2. Remember the bad: Dr. Emmons notes that to feel thankful, it's often helpful to recall the not-so-good times in your life. This can help you contrast the good with the bad and feel thankful for what you have. It also can be helpful to remember what you have that others do not. No one's life is perfect, but there are people in the world whose lives are much worse.

3. Use the three question meditation technique: Known as Naikan, this mediation technique asks you to reflect on three questions—What have I received from __?, What have I given to __?, and What troubles and difficulty have I caused?

4. Vow to practice: Dr. Emmons says that research has shown that making an oath to perform a behaviour increases the likelihood that you will do it. So commit to engage in acts of gratitude each day, and use visual reminders, such as post-its, to remind yourself.

5. Fake it 'til you make it: According to Dr. Emmons, "going through the motions" on days when you aren't feeling particularly grateful can actually trigger the emotion. In other words, forcing yourself to smile, say thank you, and write thank you letters are likely to put you in an appreciative mood.

I want to leave you with this quote: “Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” William Arthur Ward.

I'm Poornima Nair, Certified Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Founder of Live Authentic Coaching and a Mentor with The Cherie Blair Foundation. If you are curious about coaching, interested in being nurtured, inspired and pushed to your edge, to discover and create the relationships, career, lifestyle, finances you are longing for, please reach out to me for a taster of what great coaching does to foster the clarity, mindset, qualities and skills that will allow you to breakthrough.

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