The Power of Gratitude

This is an article written by a client from The Resilience Centre. She shares her experience of how gratitude has transformed her life. Thank you so much for the generosity you have shown in sharing with us all!

 

Thursday the 2nd of May 2013
one – for uncontrollable laughing fits (even if they come at inappropriate times and in inappropriate situations)
two – that mess can always be cleaned up – no matter how big it is

Monday the 10th of June 2013
one – for public holidays
two – for sunsets

Saturday the 12th of October 2013
one – that I live in a safe, secure home in a stunning location
two – that the future is exciting

Tuesday the 4th of March 2014
one – that I have freedom
two – for people with a heart for humanity, working for justice

For me it was two things. Just two simple things. Dots point even. Written, dated and underlined. Two things that completely changed my perspective on life and the world in which we live.

Last March I met a man who told me that he had been writing down two things that he was grateful for each day for the past 37 years. He told me about the profound impact it had made on him and how it had thoroughly altered his relationships, perception and attitude towards living.

Now, It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but I had never really given it much serious thought. In fact, I didn’t think I cared for it at all but there was something about the way this man spoke about the process with such faith and conviction; I couldn’t help but be challenged.

In order to change my life I knew I had to change something I did daily, but I constantly wondered what specifically it was that I needed to change in my everyday life. Or maybe the bigger question/roadblock for me was, “Where do I start?” The growing need for change in my life seemed way too complicated and overwhelming at that point to even start considering modification. But here, in plain sight, was the most straightforward and simplistic solution. The aspect that I needed to change, and the element I needed to add to my daily routine was quite simply: gratitude.

So on Saturday the 30th of March 2013, I decided to give it a go. What did I have to lose? I grabbed a pen and took out my blank Hogwarts style (shout out to all my Harry Potter Fans) black hard cover journal with gold pages, which I had been saving for something special, and began to write. On the first page I wrote, “What are you grateful for today?” on the next, “2 a day keeps the enemy (negativity) away.” What then followed was the beginning of a transformational life journey. There really was no turning back.

I write this as a personal testimony; as an encouragement, in hope that you too may experience the same freedom that I have found in this. I am so eager to let you know that gratitude, being thankful, is, single handedly one of the most important things I have ever discovered. It cleanses toxic thoughts and challenges negativity. It fosters positivity and brings your mind back to the good at the end of each day. It brings life and light into the mundane and thrill into the seemingly insignificant. It’s contagious; a magnet for encountering more joy and it truly turns the ordinary into extraordinary.
Gratitude lays a solid foundation for which healthy life is able to live and thrive off. It has the power to radically shift perspectives, to bring hope back into hopeless situations and to make even the darkness nights bright again. Gratitude builds resilience and may just be the very key to real, raw and true happiness. “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, but gratitude that brings us happiness.”

Since beginning this process 12 months ago now, I find myself always seeking, searching for and FINDING the marvelous. I pay so much more attention to detail and walk with my eyes wide open. I don’t just think about it when I write, I live with a constant awareness of and heightened appreciation for the little things. It has become more than just a daily routine, it has become apart of my very being, woven down through the fabric and deeply sown in. It brings me an incomprehensible amount of happiness. It puts a skip back into my step. I have more energy, more motivation and a whole lot more self-acceptance, understanding and self-love.

Regardless of how idealistic this topic may sound to you or not, I want you to know that I do realise some days are hard and that it may not always seem fair I ask you to find anything positive. On these days, where it seems like you have nothing good to write, I encourage you push through and do so anyway. These are the days that it is vital you do unearth those two things – that you do find something to write, even the smallest something in order to bring a light into your darkness. Perseverance is so important here for these are the days you will look back on and see the true strength and character of your soul.
Flicking back through my journal I’ve too had these days; days where I’ve felt like I was standing in the midst of the impossible. However, when I read things like: Friday the 17th of May 2013 – that pain eventually fades, Sunday the 30th June 2013 – that crying cannot physically last forever and Saturday the 6th of July 2013 – that brokenness can be repaired, I don’t feel self pity or sadness – I feel victorious, I feel like an conqueror. How great is it to know that the enemy on his best day isn’t even able to take you out on your worst day?!?

Being intentionally grateful everyday doesn’t have to be complicated. It just needs to be realistic and achievable. For me, as you know, it’s a gratitude journal. For others it’s a ‘Photo a Day’ challenge. For some it may just be as simple as making it apart of a daily conversation with another. If you’re anything like me and are likely to forget, set an alarm in your phone, name it “What are you grateful for today?” and have it go off each day at the same time. After a while it will be so set into your heart that you won’t even need that reminder anymore.

So my challenge to you is to give it a go. Be grateful, in everything – Despite the madness of your day or the pain of your past; despite the chaos of your week or the turmoil currently rushing through your head. Seek the good and choose to go out and find it. Be the one revealing the positives while everyone else around you is tearing down the walls with the negatives. Give thanks for what you have, regardless of whether you feel like its enough or not, and just wait and see if your newfound attitude doesn’t transform your household and workplace, strengthen your relationships and ultimately, change your life. You’ll soon watch the things you thought were “not enough” become more than enough.

Your grateful spirit will not only transform your life but it also has the power to transform the world of those around you.

For me it was two things. Just two simple things. Dots point even. Written, dated and underlined. Two things that completely changed my perspective on life and the world in which we live.

What will those two things do for you?

Navigating Mental Health Online: Four Websites Worth a Visit

As we all know, the internet is a vast repository of information, and the topic of mental health is no exception. Just a quick search of the words, “Mental Health” on Google elicits a staggering 592 million hits.

For whatever reason you might be motivated to expand your knowledge or understanding of mental health, jumping into the web for information can be a daunting experience. Before too long page after page of ambiguous, misleading information can leave even the most web-savvy individual feeling overwhelmed.

We psychologists are trained in the most recent and up-to-date information, and so an important part of our profession is knowing where is the best information online is. A little bit of knowledge is a powerful tool- to gain understanding of a condition, to reduce stigma about mental health and to provide avenues for support for sufferers. To that end, I thought I would dedicate today’s blog post to four websites I have found over the years to be a helpful resource. A few good places to start your online research.

1. Beyond Blue

www.beyondblue.org.au

Beyond Blue is a mental health organisation that is all about raising awareness. As a result, their website aims towards providing a lot of information about mental health and its impact. There is a wealth of statistics and easy-to-access facts about a range of mental disorders. The site also features a lot of information about how mental health relates to a range of topics, including school, university and aged care.

The website serves as a good entry point to learning more about mental health. Whether you’re looking for answers or support, or you’re a student looking to do research, it should be considered one of the first points of online contact.

2. The Black Dog Institute

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

The Black Dog Institute is a mental health organisation with a narrower scope than Beyond Blue – It specialises in depression and bipolar disorder.

The website serves a similar purpose as Beyond Blue, and they have a range of fact sheets covering all aspects of depression/bipolar, including major symptoms, known causes and treatment options. In addition, they have a number of handy applications, including self-tests for bipolar and mood management. There is a section dedicated to specific information for health professionals. Finally, Black Dog is a research organisation, and if you’re interested in giving to the mental health community, they are a good stop for looking into opportunities for volunteering, both for raising awareness and research purposes.

3. headspace

www.headspace.org.au

There are websites that cater specifically to providing information and awareness for adolescents and young adults, and headspace is a good one to look at. Headspace is all about helping young people understand mental illness and realise that firstly, they’re not alone, and secondly, help is available. 

One thing I really like about the headspace website is that it has a link to eheadspace, which is an online counselling service for people aged 12-25. It’s available for online chat, email or phone and the staff are trained counsellors and psychologists. If you’re having a rough night and need someone to talk to, it might be worth seeing the eheadspace website and checking whether it would be right for you.

www.eheadspace.org.au

4. Authentic Happiness

www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu 

This website is a little different to the others. Whereas the first three refer to mental disorders, this is a website dedicated to the area of positive psychology. Positive Psychology is a relatively new sub-area of psychology, and it focuses on good mental health, rather than just on the treatment of mental illness.

This website is not as fancy, or as easy to navigate. But it is a treasure trove of information about promoting positive mental health. It’s run by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in all the latest ideas about promoting positive change and wellbeing, then I recommend diving in to this website and exploring the information and presentations it has to offer. It also is host to a number of questionnaires that measure lots of positive-psychology concepts, including identifying your strengths.

Whether you’re starting your online journey or are a well-seasoned traveller; and whatever your reasons for searching mental health on the web, I hope these four websites provide something for you to grab hold of. Happy Surfing!

 

By Adam Wright, MAPS

Registered Psychologist

Alpha Psychology and the Resilience Centre

Resilient Grandparents

Link

The Uncharted and difficult terrain of in-laws and grand parenting.

By Lyn WorsleyGrandmother and Girls Baking Cupcakes

Clinical Psychologist

Over the past couple of years I have had a number of couples who see me regarding navigating the relationships with their adult children and son and daughter in-laws and particularly as to the role of grand-parenting.

Here is a typical scenario.

Kelly and Chris recently married. They have been together for over 7 years and appear to get on well with each of the in laws. Chris is the youngest of his three siblings and his parents appear to be at a loss for what to do now that the children have moved out of home. Chris’ mum rings every second day and tries to organise the family get togethers. She would like them to come over on the weekends, however Kelly and Chris want to spend time with their friends, having dinner parties and going out in the city after work.

Over time Kelly has found the requests to come over tedious, and has begun to avoid the phone calls. Chris replies to his mother’s requests by deferring to Kelly. Chris’s mum begins to feel rejected and as a result stops ringing Chris, and instead waits for him to ring her. After 6 months there is little contact and only two calls when Chris needed to borrow something. Chris’s mum begins to feel resentful and hurt and starts to avoid going out to things and avoids talking to any of her children. Both parents begin to feel isolated and angry. The few family get-togethers are tainted with resentment and awkwardness.

This is a very familiar story and one that comes with a lot of grief. What is happening and how do the family move toward a more positive set of interactions and support?

When we look at the relationships of resilient families we can see that there are no perfect interactions and many of them report there is a rocky transition towards the good relationships within the family. The best observation however is that the families who seem to adjust to this transition a more accepting of each others imperfections, are in tune with each others motives and a less reactive to their mess ups.

John and Julie Gottman (Gottman, 1994) in their studies of relationships through the eyes of the positive psychology world, show that there is a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative language in good relationships and they go on to predict how the presence of this ratio leads to good relationships.  But actually, much more than the 5:1 is important.  More generally, John Gottman is widely known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations published in peer-reviewed literature. He notes.

“A relationship is a contract of mutual nurturance. Relationships have to be a rich climate of positivity. For relationships to be strong, the ideal climate is one teeming with positive interactions.”
~ John Gottman, May 2009

This quote is relevant for relationships in general and not just the couple relationship. With the role of grandparents and parents in law, it is important therefore to be proactive with your responses to the younger generation.

  Here are some tips that I frequently help clients to focus on.

Think about how you would like the relationship to be. Try and paint a picture in your mind. Be fairly clear but realistic. So for example consider how do you want them to think about you or talk about you to their friends. What values do you want them to say about you. ‘Kindness, always there for us, strong, independent.”  Keep this picture to yourself, but share the values you have through your actions. (Even if they are not deserving of your kindness).

  1. Keep the focus on what works. Where do you connect easily? When is the relationship smooth and less rocky? These brief moments give you windows into what works and where the positivity is most likely to exist. You can build on these moments.
  2. Instead of grieving the relationship you don’t have, keep an eye on what is good about the one that you do have. Look for opportunities to thank others since gratitude is as good for the giver as for the receiver.
  3. Make it intentional how you move through time together. Those actions are about working towards shared meaning. The rituals of connection are very important. So plan activities where shared meanings can exist. If they don’t show up, do the activities anyway, sending them pictures or messages showing the values of the activity.  For example, Cricket, footy games, picnics.
  4. Avoid emotional blackmail, “it would have been good except you didn’t come” or “I’ve gone to all this trouble just for us” rather use words like. “I’m looking forward to sharing things with you, but I understand if you can’t make it.”
  5. Support each others roles, e.g. role of mother, father, and friend. Let each other be who they are: this is what’s meaningful to them. Do we know our children’s mission? Does the relationship support our separate missions in life? Be aware that your mission in life may not be the same as your adult child.
  6. Build your own strengths and your own life separate from your adult children. You’ll be happier when learning about your own strengths and using them in new ways, according the Seligman (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006).  You also become more interesting to them, and your values are more on show with your interests.
  7. Use those strengths and positive emotions to undo disgust and other negative emotions that come from dealing with others. Positive emotions have many nice outcomes, especially the reversal of negative emotions. (practice gratitude, and find jokes to laugh about, distract with pleasant thoughts)
  8. Barbara Fredrickson’s (Frederickson, 2009) explain how to Practice Active Constructive Responding, the tool for positive and interactive responding to the capitalizations of others. What you say in response to the good news of others is a better predictor of your relationship outcome than how you respond to problems. So consider ways to be excited about the success of your adult children, even if you are not happy with their choices, or you would have liked them to do what you would value.
  9. Finally, don’t give up, Keep giving and sharing for their sake. Your role as a parent never stops, and they will consider how you behave as a guide for their future. You never stop being a parent, because you never stop loving, even when they are hard work. So when you give, make sure it is for their benefit, not to make them feel guilty, or because you want them to like you but rather give what they need. This may be with, time, an understanding smile, a comment that shows you remember their stress and an openness to adapting to their lives as well.

References

Frederickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity. New York: Crown Publishers.

Gottman, J. M. (1994). What Predicts Divorce: The relationship between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes. Neew York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Seligman, M. E., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 61(8), 774-788. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.61.8.774