It is a fact of life that we all get stressed, not only at work but at home also. During these moments of stress and worry, it is known that practicing gratitude is an effective way to calm our brain and focus on the positive. Brain science has shown that gratitude is “can change your brain, make you happier, boost your immune system, improve your relationships, and make you more productive.”
Recently, one of my coaching clients was telling me how he uses gratitude when the situation at his office gets tough or stressful. I asked him what he did to practice gratitude and he listed the usual: “I tell myself I’m thankful for my wife, my family, my house, my car, etc.” While I admired his gratitude practice, I challenged him to push this concept further, by “amping up the gratitude” as I like to say. He was curious to understand my meaning so I made a few suggestions:
1. As you go through your day, be on the lookout for positive things that occur. I call these “moments of awe and wonder”. For example, when my client is on his morning walk, he notices the birds singing or the changing colors of the leaves and appreciates them with gratitude. You could also cherish random encounters of kindness that you see throughout your day. These encounters could include a smile of acknowledgment from someone you hardly know, a stranger helping you collect something you dropped on the sidewalk or receiving an email/social media comment from a long-lost friend. Another example of noticing positive occurrences is when you’re able to get projects done with ease and speed.
When that happens, I’ll notice and say to myself, “Wow, that took far less time than I anticipated. That was fun!” By all means, collect and remember the compliments that you receive. A coaching client recently shared a compliment he received when one of his team members said he was the best boss ever! What a positive moment to tuck away for later savoring.
2. Write down these moments, either as they happen (a friend of mine keeps a small notebook in her purse to jot down moments she wants to remember) or at the end of the day as you are getting ready for bed. At bedtime, you could review your day from morning to night and notate positive moments so you’ll remember them for the future. Some of my clients do this day-end review with their spouses, which makes it even more special. You could open the conversation by asking your partner, “What were the highlights of your day, dear?”
3. After you have written down these treasured moments you can refer back to them when you are stressed or emotionally triggered, recalling some of these experiences of awe and wonder. As you recall these special moments, try to imagine them with all your senses – sight, sound, taste, feel and smell – so that you can re-create the same physical feeling within your body. This is guaranteed to stop your hamster-wheel of negative thoughts and provide some perspective on the situation.
4. Lastly, as you gain experience with this practice, you will begin to notice that these positive encounters or moments in your life seem to increase in number. Once you start recognizing these moments, it certainly feels that love-infused moments occur more often than before.
With the US celebrating Thanksgiving this week, now is a good time to “amp up your gratitude” to collect these moments of awe and wonder. In fact, at your dinner table this holiday season, instead of asking those who have gathered with you, “What are you grateful for?”, consider asking instead, “What were the highlights of your last week/month/year?” It’s so much more fun and productive than being simply grateful for the typical spouse/family/house/car, etc. day after day.
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