85 – The Power of Gratitude with Julie Long

written by Julie Long (Founder and Counsellor) on 14/10/21

Conversations with Safe Harbour Therapy
85 – The Power of Gratitude with Julie Long
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Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of conversations with Safe Harbour Therapy. I’m your host, Julie Long, and today I wanted to share some reflections with you about the power of gratitude.

In Canada, we just celebrated thanksgiving and at Safe Harbour we just celebrated 2 years of offering this podcast. So I thought gratitude would be an appropriate topic of conversation. So thank you for listening!!

Around this time of year, it’s a custom for many to share what they appreciate about each other. Perhaps you’ve recently been on the receiving end of a thank you. Do you remember your reaction? I know when I receive a comment of appreciation it resonates with me and puts a bounce in my step. Research has shown that sharing an expression of gratitude with another person elevates the receiver’s mood but it helps elevate the mood of the giver of the gratitude. It’s a dose of dopamine and who doesn’t like feeling better? 

I was reminded recently of the power of gratitude in reducing stress, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and the struggles with food and substances like alcohol and drugs which many may be struggling with as the effects of Covid-19 continue to wreak havoc in our lives. As humans, we’re wired to survive so it’s really easy for us to notice what isn’t okay or what we see as negative in our lives. Since our nervous system is hardwired to protect us, we have to actually work at finding the positives. Yet just like forming any new habit, the more we do it the easier it becomes because we hardwire our nervous system in a new way we notice we automatically respond in a new way and can see the ripple effects in our lives … like better sleep, more energy, optimism, happiness, kindness, generosity, and resilience. If we work at building new neural networks of gratitude each day, when we encounter a difficult situation, rather than getting stuck in the mud of negativity, we’ll have the bridge of gratitude to get us through the mess.

So what are some habits you could try out?
There’s always the gratitude journal (or calendar or notes page) if you like to write or perhaps a gratitude audio file on your phone if you like to talk. Maybe, you don’t like either of those options, simply having a post it note in a high traffic area of your house to remind you to think of 3 things that have gone well that you’re thankful for that day. Perhaps you may need some incentive to remember and you could use your phone throughout the day to capture moments of gratitude and look at them later in the day to activate your thoughts and feelings of gratitude. You might also like to share your gratitude with other people specifically through text, email, or phone. Or perhaps you might create a piece of art or receipt and deliver it. Either way, practicing a way that is easy but fun will keep it more likely that you’ll keep up your gratitude habit.

Practicing in the morning can help create a positive mindset for the day whereas practicing in the evening might help to relax you before you go to bed. That is if you can stay awake long enough to think of them. Figuring out what time of the day works better for you will help you remember to think of our gratitude list.

One caveat is to try and be creative, encouraging yourself to work hard at finding those positives rather than using the same ones every day. Saying you’re thankful for your children could be repeated everyday and become boring for your brain—we went to spark the wiring of new neurons new associations new ways of thinking so being specific keeps it fresh. For instance, I’m grateful that my daughter offered to help me carry in the groceries or I’m glad my sister called to ask me how Sarah’s first day of school went. If you wake up in a glum mood, it might be helpful to think or write in detail to expand on all the details including activating your five senses to really embody the feeling of gratitude.

When life is really difficult, it may be hard to find things to be thankful for—for instance, if it’s hard to get out of bed, finding something about your bed like how soft your blanket is can be something to be grateful for or even the colours of you sheets. If you didn’t sleep well, being thankful for the hot cup of coffee with caffeine to help you through the day. If you’re stuck in traffic, looking out the window and finding something you see that catches your eye. Perhaps the different colours of trees. If you had an argument with a loved one, expressing thanks for the headphones and music you have to distract you from ruminating. If you’re having difficulty finding something to be grateful for in the present, perhaps you can reflect back to a time in your life where you were having difficulty and think about who you made it through … being thankful you did make it and perhaps reflect on who was in your life that maybe offered you support. Finding the silver lining in a difficult situation can offer us an idea to express thanks. For instance many people have found that being at home more due to social distancing has been a positive thing to help them be with their families or slow down from their hectic pace of life. Digging deep to find something or someone to be thankful for can offer us that dose of dopamine that can help us move through the difficult situation a little better.

After listening to this podcast, are there three things that come to mind that you’re thankful for today? Perhaps before you move on to your next task, you might think of three now and maybe write on a post it note to have ready to cue you to remember your gratitude list for tomorrow.

Learn more and connect with Julie Long, Founder and Counsellor.

References:

Hawn, Goldie with Wendy Holden. 10 Mindful Minutes. Rutledge Productions Inc., 2011.
Carpenter, Derrick. The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/ October 13, 2021
Martin, Sharon 7 Ways to Practice Gratitude When You’re Feeling Depressedhttps://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2015/11/7-ways-to-practice-gratitude-when-youre-feeling-depressed#7 October 13, 2021

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