Category Archives: Gratitude

I Am My Own Best Friend

i am my own best friendI am just amazed at how often I hear the phrase, “I am my own worst enemy,” or some other similar phrase implying the ideas of being self-critical or self-sabotaging. I wonder to myself how might someone’s life look different in the days and weeks ahead if they could turn this statement upside down. What would happen if instead, we stated, “I am my own best friend.” 

How would that change the way you live? Here’s how you can change your thought process:

Kristin Neff has been researching self-compassion for many years now, and she has shared this in a TedTalk on her website. She shares that self-compassion has 3 key ingredients, which are:

  • Self-kindness – treating you like you would treat a good friend
  • Common humanity – recognizing that we all suffer
  • Mindful awareness – connecting with/being in the present moment, without judgment, and without a need to hold anything or push anything away.

So, with self-kindness, it sounds simple enough, but unfortunately, we have a lot of programming in which we are self-critical, always on guard for the moment that we are going to screw up. We would never treat our friends like this and we could really benefit from changing this pattern with ourselves.

The idea of common humanity is really helpful too. When we recognize that we are not the only ones suffering, and even realize that everyone suffers from time to time, maybe we can feel less alone. This could give us another reason to lighten up and be kinder to ourselves.

The third component is mindful awareness. With mindfulness of the present moment, we can be more fully connected to our lives and to our thoughts and feelings in each moment. Rather than trying so hard to avoid our difficult thoughts and feelings, we could hold them more lightly and not be so overwhelmed by them.

If we could be our own best friend then we would always have someone to do things with!

Doing my best to live life on Purpose! -Terri Mudge

Why Are Some Children More Giving Than Others?

Parents and educators are acutely aware that children can be both excessively self-oriented and overwhelmingly generous. For every preschooler refusing to share his toy truck, there’s an eight year old who insists on giving all of his allowance money to the homeless. Kids can also enjoy their altruism. One study found that even two year olds were happier giving something away than receiving a gift.

But research also finds that this natural generosity can be stunted by environmental factors—and one of them, it seems, is wealth. Across a range of studies, college students and adults from affluent backgrounds have shown less interest in connecting with other people and less financial generosity than their poorer counterparts. The repercussions go beyond an obvious rise in the disparity between rich and poor. Traits like empathy, generosity, and compassion also have a positive influence on individual health and happiness.

So when does a family’s socioeconomic status begin to influence a child’s prosocial behavior—and how might that affect his or her health? To answer these questions, Jonas Miller and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, had 74 preschool-age children perform a series of tasks for which they could earn tokens. They were then given the choice of donating none, some, or all of their tokens to anonymous sick children, who were unable to come and earn prizes for themselves. The children were left alone to decide whether to transfer any of tokens from their box to one reserved for their sick counterparts. The researchers also gathered information on each child’s family income (which ranged from $15,000 to more than $150,000 per year).

Throughout the tasks, Miller’s team used a device called an EEG to measure activity in the children’s parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which helps us keep our cool in threatening situations. Healthy PNS functioning is linked to many positive health outcomes—and children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are often found to have problems with their PNS functioning.

Miller and his colleagues found that children from less wealthy families gave away more of their tokens than did children from wealthier families. Given what we know about adult behavior, that results was not surprising.

However, the researchers also found that more generous children exhibited healthier PNS functioning throughout the various phases of the task, regardless of whether they came from a rich or poor family. Interestingly, once the task was completed, the children who showed the healthiest physiological response were the generous children and the children from wealthier backgrounds. This suggests that the act of giving may offset the physiological disadvantage from which poorer children seem to suffer.

The takeaway: Material wealth may indeed have small but powerful effects on our children’s desire to give to others—we see it or not, our children might be internalizing family wealth. But for less affluent children who act on their altruistic impulses, their generosity may well provide a powerful buffer against the negative physiological affects of poverty.

This research empowers those of us raising or working with less affluent children to encourage generosity among them. Luckily, many people believe that we can teach altruism to children of any background by setting positive examples and structuring their environment in certain ways. So whether you try to foster generosity by establishing a safer, more connected classroom or starting a daily meditation practice with your child, you’re not just doing good for our world. You’re also doing good for their health.

Nature – The Best Kept Secret – It’s Better Than Drugs

023By Terri Mudge

Nature is Captivating!

I have been captivated by the power of nature! When I stumbled on some research that proved its power in restoring our wellbeing, I paid attention. Here’s what I found.

Studies at a hospital in Pennsylvania from 1972-81 generated some interesting data about the power of nature. Identical hospital rooms on either side of the building were the same except the view from the windows–one side faced a brick wall, while the other side faced a small stand of trees.  Over many years, the patients facing the natural environment required less pain medication and recovered a day sooner than those facing the brick wall. Patients gazing out at a natural scene were four times better off than their counterparts!

In another study, psychologists studied a group of parents living with their children in upstate New York. While many of the families experienced hardships and stresses when their children were growing up, those that lived in more natural environments seemed to withstand stresses better and show a higher level of self-esteem and lower stress.

Another study asked hundreds of parents of children with ADD (attention deficit disorder), again and again reports showed that those playing outside in nature or even simply viewing nature from inside, were happier and more likely to interact with friends.

Nature Draws Us In

What is it about the natural environment? How does this work? William James, an early psychologist from the 1800s explained “involuntary attention” as something that gets our attention without any mental effort on our part. Our natural environment is full of things that capture our attention involuntarily, such as water rippling in the wind, breezes blowing clouds across the sky and ocean currents sending waves ashore. And this restores us! In the same way food and water restore our bodies, we can benefit from nature restoring our mental functioning that takes a beating in everyday life.

Nature Restores Us

Psychologists refer to this as the “Attention Restoration Theory” (ART).  One article by Adam Alter explains it this way:

“According to ART, urban environments are draining because they force us to direct our attention to specific tasks (e.g., avoiding the onslaught of traffic) and grab our attention dynamically, compelling us to “look here!” before telling us to instead “look over there!” These demands are draining — and they’re also absent in natural environments.”

Our natural environments demand nothing and yet they are ever-changing. When they move and shift, they grab our attention, require nothing, and provide an opportunity to restore our exhausted minds. Let’s challenge each other to take some time out this week to spend a couple hours with nature without any agenda of doing anything specific or urgent. Just be. Just soak it in and take note of how it changes your mood and mindset.

Prescription For Nature - Video Screenshot

Posted by 4biddenknowledge on Tuesday, February 2, 2016

 

Source: Alter, Adam. “DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies.” DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies. DailyGood, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

How Awe Makes Us Generous

~ Greater Good Science Center ~

 

Child in awe

What do the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel, and gazing at distant stars all have in common?

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves—that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Piff and his team conducted a series of experiments to investigate the types of experiences that inspire awe, how awe facilitates positive behavior towards others, and how these effects are distinct from those of other pro-social emotions.

In the first study, participants were asked to rate the frequency that they generally feel awe, and then completed a test that measured generous behavior. Results showed that those who experience more awe tend to behave more generously, even after accounting for other positive emotions like compassion or love. While this finding was highly encouraging, the team had yet to prove that awe directly led to positive behavior towards others.

In a second study, participants recalled a time they felt awe—such as the view from a mountaintop or a brilliant ocean sunset—and then were asked to complete an ethical decision-making task. Once again, those who experienced awe demonstrated significantly more ethical behavior as compared to those who recalled other emotions such as pride.

Participants consistently reported that awe produced “a reduced sense of self importance relative to something larger and more powerful that they felt connected to,” says Piff. And subsequent analysis confirmed that this feeling of the “small self” was responsible for their ethical behavior. This seems to suggest that experiencing awe prompts people to help others.

Yet another experiment exposed different groups to an awe-inspiring nature video such as Planet Earth, a funny animal video, or a neutral video. Once again, people who experienced awe reported a feeling of a “small self” which triggered more generous behavior.

And these effects were shown to be applicable outside the lab, as well. After gazing up at a grove of towering eucalyptus trees for one full minute, participants were more helpful when a researcher “accidentally” dropped a box of pens on the ground than those who just stared at a large building.

But does awe continue to have its beneficial effects on social behavior even if the stimulus is threatening or isn’t associated with nature at all? Indeed, after exposure to videos of threatening natural disasters (e.g. volcanoes) or beautiful close-up slow motion footage of colored drops of water, participants also showed a greater tendency toward fairness when distributing resources between themselves and another individual.

“Even these minute droplets remind you of the intricacy and complexity of natural world, and in so doing bring about feelings of awe and the small self,” says Piff. “And that is one of the remarkable qualities of awe. You don’t have to climb a huge mountain and take in a grand view to feel it.”

Piff is now investigating whether awe can spread between people, the degree to which these positive effects are seen in those who vicariously experience awe, and if these effects apply universally across cultures.

“When people experience awe they really want to share that experience with other people, suggesting that it has this particularly viral component to it,” says Piff. “Maybe this is yet another way that awe binds people together—by causing people to want to share their positive experiences collectively with one another.”

 

Four Great Gratitude Strategies

Much of the research on happiness can be boiled down to one main prescription: give thanks. Across hundreds of studies, practicing gratitude has  been found to increase positive emotions, reduce the risk of depression, heighten relationship satisfaction, and increase resilience in the face of stressful life events, among other benefits.

Juliana Breines explains how these 4 habits of practicing gratitude can have a big impact in your life.

And, here are the 4 main elements, but please read on to discover how to put these ideas into practice, so they can get to work for you.

1. Count your blessings
2. Mental subtraction
3. Savor
4. Say “thank you”

Read the full article below.

Greater Good: By Juliana Breines

Happy woman

Happy woman

Over the past two decades, much of the research on happiness can be boiled down to one main prescription: give thanks. Across hundreds of studies, practicing gratitude has been found to increase positive emotions, reduce the risk of depression, heighten relationship satisfaction, and increase resilience in the face of stressful life events, among other benefits.

The problem is, gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. The negatives in our lives—the disappointments, resentments, and fears—sometimes occupy more of our attention than the positives.

But Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that intentionally developing a grateful outlook helps us both recognize good things in our lives and realize that many of these good things are “gifts” that we have been fortunate to receive. By making gratitude a habit, we can begin to change the emotional tone of our lives, creating more space for joy and connection with others.

Fortunately, researchers have identified a number of practices for cultivating gratitude. Many of them are collected on the Greater Good Science Center’s new website, Greater Good in Action (GGIA), which features the top research-based exercises for fostering happiness, kindness, connection, and resilience. Here I highlight GGIA’s gratitude practices, which can be divided into four main categories.

1. Count your blessings

Some days it feels like everything is going wrong. But often, even on bad days, good things happen, too—we’re just less likely to notice them.

That’s where the Three Good Things practice comes in. This practice involves spending 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each day writing in detail about three things that went well that day, large or small, and also describing why you think they happened. A 2005 study led by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that completing this exercise every day for one week led to increases in happiness that persisted for six months.

This simple practice is effective because it not only helps you remember and appreciate good things that happened in the past; it can also teach you to notice and savor positive events as they happen in the moment, and remember them more vividly later on. By reflecting on the sources of these good things, the idea is that you start to see a broader ecosystem of goodness around you rather than assuming that the universe is conspiring against you.

Similar to Three Good Things is keeping a Gratitude Journal, which involves writing down up to five things for which you are grateful once a week and reflecting on what these things mean to you. For this practice, you can expand the scope of your gratitude beyond good things that happened that day and consider positive events from your past and even those coming up in the future. The Gratitude Journal is especially effective when you focus on specific people you’re grateful to have—or have had—in your life.

2. Mental subtraction

In the words of Joni Mitchell, “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.” But sometimes just imagining that something is gone is enough to make you appreciate what you’ve got.

One way to do that is to engage in the Mental Subtraction of Positive Events practice, which involves considering the many ways in which important, positive events in your life—such as a job opportunity or educational achievement—could have never taken place, and then reflecting on what your life would be like without them.

A series of 2008 studies led by Minkyung Koo found that completing a 15-minute mental subtraction writing exercise led to increases in happiness and gratitude.

Mental subtraction can counteract the tendency to take positive events for granted and see them as inevitable; instead, it helps you recognize how fortunate you are that things transpired as they did.

One variation on this practice is Mental Subtraction of Relationships, which is similar to Mental Subtraction of Positive Events but involves focusing specifically on important relationships, such as close friends or romantic partners. Although it may be painful to imagine your life without someone you care about, doing so once in a while can serve as a reminder not to take that person for granted and may improve your relationship as a result.

3. Savor

Ever notice that the first bite of cake is usually the best? We have a tendency to adapt to pleasurable things—a phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation”—and appreciate them less and less over time. But we can interrupt this process by trying the Give it Up practice, which requires temporarily giving up pleasurable activities and then coming back to them later, this time with greater anticipation and excitement.

A 2013 study conducted by Jordi Quoidbach and Elizabeth Dunn found that abstaining from a pleasurable activity for a week (in this case, eating chocolate) led people to derive greater pleasure from it and feel greater appreciation for it when they eventually indulged in it again.

The goal of this practice is not only to experience more pleasure but to recognize how we take lots of pleasures for granted, and to try to savor them more. We often assume that more is better—that the greatest enjoyment should come from abundance and indulgence—but research suggests that some degree of scarcity and restraint is more conducive to happiness.
But abstaining from the pleasures in your life isn’t the only way to help you savor them. Instead, you can try taking a Savoring Walk.

In the age of smartphones, it’s a common experience to walk down the street with your eyes glued to your screen, unaware of your surroundings. But even without a phone in hand, you may simply be distracted or in a rush, and as a result you may miss opportunities to take in some things that can make you feel good—beautiful or awe-inspiring scenery, acts of kindness between people, adorable children.

The Savoring Walk involves walking for 20 minutes by yourself once a week, ideally taking a different route each time, paying close attention to as many positive sights, sounds, smells, or other sensations as you can. Research by Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff has found that taking this kind of stroll led to an increase in happiness one week later.

In addition to making you feel good, becoming more attuned to your surroundings can also give you more opportunities to connect with other people, even if it’s just to share a smile.

4. Say “thank you”

Gratitude can be especially powerful when it’s expressed to others. Small gestures of appreciation, such as thank you notes, can make a difference, but there are some things that deserve more than a fleeting “thanks!”

If there is anyone in your life to whom you feel you’ve never properly expressed your gratitude, writing a thoughtful, detailed Gratitude Letter is a great way to increase your own feelings of gratitude and happiness while also making the other person feel appreciated and valued; it may also deepen your relationship with them.

The 2005 study led by Martin Seligman described above also tested the effects of writing and delivering a gratitude letter, finding that, of the five different practices that the researchers tested, this practice had the greatest positive impact on happiness one month later. Those who delivered and read the letter to the recipient in person, rather than just mailing it, reaped the greatest benefits.

It’s important to note, though, that six months after writing and delivering their Gratitude Letter, participants’ happiness levels had dropped back down to where they were before the visit. This finding reminds us that no single activity is a panacea that can permanently alter happiness levels after just one attempt. Instead, gratitude practices and other happiness-inducing activities need to be practiced regularly over time, ideally with some variety to avoid hedonic adaptation.

And because not every practice will feel right for everyone, it’s worth trying out as many practices as you can to find the ones that work best for you. The gratitude practices you’ll find on Greater Good in Action are as reliable a place to start as any.

For too long, we’ve taken gratitude for granted.

Yes, “thank you” is an essential, everyday part of family dinners, trips to the store, business deals, and political negotiations. That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention.

  • However, they’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

What to know more about the science and practice of gratitude? Please see these Greater Good resources? Read on…

Greater Good:Thnx4-logo-small

What to know more about the science and practice of gratitude? Please see these Greater Good resources:

  • Gratitude definition page: The What, Why, and How of gratitude
  • “Pay It Forward,” by Robert A. Emmons
  • “Why Gratitude is Good,” by Robert A. Emmons
  • “Ten Ways to Become More Grateful,” by Robert A. Emmons
  • Pieces on gratitude from Christine Carter’s parenting blog, Raising Happiness
  • “Love, Honor, and Thank,” by Jess Alberts and Angela Trethewey
  • “Stumbling Toward Gratitude,” by Catherine Price
  • Key gratitude books, studies, and organizations.
  • And take this gratitude quiz to learn how grateful you are!

Contact Information

Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude
Greater Good Science Center
University of California, Berkeley, MC 6070
Berkeley, CA 94720-6070
510.642.2490
Gratitude@Berkeley.edu
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude

 

Practicing Gratitude

Ideas to get happier and see more of the good that’s around you

GreaterGood-StudyVideoAs a counselor, practicing gratitude is a strategy I recommend for anyone dealing with depression.Research is showing some excellent results from practicing gratitude, to include:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

I have decided to share some of my thoughts about gratitude, for my November blog.

This shouldn’t be too hard… Except that I don’t know where to begin, and I am pretty sure, I won’t know how to stop once I get going.

That has been my experience with practicing gratitude. When I have taken the time to practice it, as in making a point to focus on one thing that is a joy or a blessing in my life, I find that any topic provides a rich, deep journey into positive thinking.

For example, something as simple as focusing on my health, can provide a wealth of inspirational thoughts. Starting with the fact that I can appreciate that I am not sick today, that I can walk, and get up and go outside to see the blue sky, or go call a good friend, or even that I can breathe freely, or simply  that I have woken up for another day.

Despite its healthful benefits, practicing gratitude is not that common. So much so, we often wait until this week, the third week of November, before we give it much thought. I am grateful for this annual ritual, even though it’s not nearly enough, it does give us a recognized time and place to pause and remember what we are thankful for. So, I am grateful that at least there is that.

Here are some ideas to increase the gratitude in your life:

Set Up a Routine Time and Place
Just like beginning any new habit, or practicing a new skill, it takes time and conscious effort to make this new habit become natural. A simple reminder can be helpful.  For example, you could practice gratitude at your family meals, maybe having each family member state one thing they are grateful for.  (This is a good way to find out what’s important to your kids or spouse.) Or, make a plan to write out a gratitude statement in the morning when you get up or every evening before sleep.

Create a Reminder
Create a reminder for yourself with a note in your car or on your bedside table. Something as simple as just the word “Gratitude,” on a piece of paper or on the cover of a notebook you are using to include your statements of gratitude.

Journal It
Write a few sentences each week, focusing on things you are grateful for in each area of your life: work, family, friends, nature, and material comforts and include any uplifting experiences.

One study compared the responses of a group of people following this process with another group who were asked to journal about daily hassles and complaints and a third group was asked to journal on neutral topics.  The results of this 10 week study showed those journaling about gratitude to have increased optimism, positive feelings, life satisfaction, and connection with others. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who focused on hassles. (Source: Positive Psychology; A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report; 2009)

In my experience, I have seen this truly work. By practicing gratitude, you will not only get happier, you will create more happiness around you. You will complain less, and see the bright side more often. So, I wish you more happiness in your life, and more ways to experience the joys you already have.

Doing My Best to…  Live Life on Purpose!

Terri Mudge

DrSuess-Lucky

Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude – Appreciation – Thankfulness

Image Credit: Fotolia

Image Credit: Fotolia

Today, I get to wake up late, go for a run, have a long leisurely breakfast, and then spend time with people I love.

The things I am grateful for: puppy dogs, a warm bed, people to love, kids, smiles, laughter, silly things to say and do, going for walks with friends or alone, reading a funny book, Nature – turtles, trees, butterflies….

So, just like Julie Andrews suggests… ‘these are a few of my favorite things.” And, if I take the time to acknowledge these, to be grateful for them instead of forgetting and just being aware of the things that annoy me, then life looks a lot brighter.

Have you heard about the 40 day Gratitude challenge? The idea is to take time to journal every day on 1 thing you are grateful for. I began this more than 40 days ago, and here’s what I found… almost every time I sat down to write about one thing, I found that I couldn’t stop writing. I was just amazed at how rich this was. Any topic, especially people, I would just begin to say one thing, “I am grateful for my kids”, and then I could write a page or more of things I appreciate in them.

So, I do encourage you to try this. You may be amazed at what you already have.

Doing my best to …. Live Life on Purpose…

Terri Mudge