Gratitude & Gratefulness: What is it, and how can I practice it?

BY PSYCHOLOGIST AKI SRESTHA

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is abundantly clear that the power of positive psychology on resilience, performance, relationships – and overall mental and physical wellbeing – is becoming better understood in many aspects of life.

The news feeds of many social media channels are filled with positive messages of gratefulness, gratitude, mindfulness and psychological words of wisdom designed to make you look up from your dinner, task, work or stress – and embrace the moment and context of what you are involved in.

However – what can be unclear is how to take these many tidbits of info and inspo, and put them to use practically and positively to initiate change.

And in the hype of being #mindful or #grateful in the age of Instagram and snapchat – how do we actually know if we are really benefiting from this, or just telling people we are?

What is gratitude?

Gratitude, by the official Cambridge Dictionary definition is “the feeling or quality of being grateful – a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something that has helped you.”

This definition describes a somewhat-simplified description of a response to the recognition of “help” or the exact source of goodness – and could

perhaps be interpreted as needing to receive some form of act or object in order to then be grateful.

Robert Emmons is seen as the world’s leading scientific expert in all things gratitude, and suggests that gratitude has two key components:

“First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Gratitude & Wellbeing

For the specific purposes of positive psychology, gratitude is a powerful tool for increasing well-being in all sorts of settings. The benefits of practicing gratitude are also not tied to any sort of specific pathology, which is also in line with the values of positive psychology research.

Expressing your thanks can really improve your overall sense of well-being: studies show that grateful people are more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic. ₁

How to practice gratitude

There are all sorts of ways to practice gratitude, and the best way to start is by trying a range of practical options.

  1. Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude Journaling is a tried and true way to document your grateful thoughts, and also a way in which to return to those thoughts for some further “contagious” inspiration!

However, it can be used poorly from a practical perspective – and simply writing “ I am grateful for my family” on a daily basis can restrict the actual benefits to wellbeing, and diminish the overall motivation to practice gratitude.

Expert Tip: In a similar way to which goal-setting works – being as specific as possible, and opening up to new interpretations of your gratitude is important. For example, gratitude for family could be “I am grateful for the laughs that my daughter gave me this morning” etc.

  1. Gratitude Jar

One nice way to keep your gratitude fresh is to place gratitude “thank notes” in a jar – and release and reflect at a later stage.

Expert Tip: This can work well personally, and also can be used successfully to drive team engagement and show appreciation for each other.

  1. Show-off your gratitude!

Gratitude can be contagious, and sharing your gratitude and appreciation can really snowball into creating a positive mindset for you generally, and the people and relationships that you are involved with. Whether at home with family, with friends or teammates/work colleagues – by taking the time to demonstrate your gratitude you are effectively reinforcing these behaviours, and influencing others to reciprocate.

Expert Tip: Share your grateful message on a group email, social media post or keep it fun by leaving a note in a team common area.

5 Ways to practice Mental Wellness at your workplace

Active couch potato

It’s no secret that Mental Health has been the fastest growing health focus area across the western world in recent years, and this is also represented in the resources and attention allocated to mental health education and intervention in the work setting – after all, we spend on average one third of our lives at work these days!

However, even with such a big profile and improving awareness of its importance, one of the questions we often get at Pinnacle Health Group is “how can we practically improve our mental health whilst at work?”

Here are 5 practical solutions to consider:

MEDITATION

There is so much available evidence for the positive effects of meditation, and to point to just a few – studies from UCLA have shown that “meditators” have better preserved brains than “non-meditators” as they age; another recent study by John Hopkins proved that meditation matches anti-depressants for its ability to reduce anxiety, depression and pain; other research, including one by Mrazek, Franklin et al – concluded that just a two-week mindfulness course improved cognitive performance in students, and led to better scores in their exams.

Meditation will only keep ingraining itself as a must-do in the workplace due to the facts – and we guide people to take a novel approach to implementation, and embrace initiatives at work such as:

  • Attend Meditation classes for yourself
  • Block off a meeting room or quiet area for 30 mins each week – and meditate
  • Download an online guided meditation sessions and listen with headphones
  • Embrace the quiet space on floors and zen out!

Make sure you join us this month for our 30 minute meditation classes and learn the skills to help improve your mental health today.

COUNSELLING OR COACHING FROM A PSYCHOLOGIST – ON-SITE OR TELE-HEALTH CONSULTATIONS

The stigma associated with seeing a Psychologist or counsellor is no longer a big deal – and we are all recognising the benefits to our entire life of being mindfully aware, and ensuring optimal mental wellbeing.

Explore the options available to you as an employee, or in your local suburb – and you will find suitable on-site, or tele-health consultations that are available with a clinical and workplace-specialised psychologist.

These sessions with a psychologists or counsellor are a proactive way to help you to build resilience and mindful behaviour – and help identify their key personal flags for stress, anxiety or burnout.

ONLINE COMMUNITY/HUB/PLATFORM

Gone are the days where simply being told to be “mentally well”, or reading broadcasted information on mental health is best practice. Interactive online platforms or community hubs (usually linked to staff intranet) are ways to gamify and make being mentally well fun and engaging, and are easily accessible to many employees.

Practical functions such as questionnaires or surveys, games and challenges, and continually updated content is a fantastic way to champion a mentally well culture. It’s also a great forum to promote any events or services that your organisation is planning.

WELLNESS & FITNESS SERVICES

The natural release of endorphins with any physical exercise is a fantastic way to improve mental wellness, and lead to feelings of accomplishment, calm, clarity and engagement. The feeling of euphoria is often described after exercise of various intensity – and the ability to break up the working day with exercise has huge benefits on productivity, and concentration alone.

Having regular scheduled times for exercise, whether that is blocking your lunch hour to go for a run or accessing more sanctuary-style services such as massage & yoga it can be a real positive force to improve your mental wellness.

WORKPLACE DESIGN

According to a large study conducted by the World Green Building Council’s “Better Places for People” campaign, simple steps like improving air quality, increasing natural light and introducing greenery – those which typically have environmental benefits such as using less energy – can also have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and wellbeing, and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs.

Most of our modern, progressive buildings have breakout areas, sit-to-stand desks, great end-of-trip facilities and quiet areas – which can all have a positive impact on your mental wellness as a tenant.

Embrace the space, and explore and appreciate the features and design of your building – it can really make you notice how great your work environment can be!

 

 

References:

Eileen Luders, Nicholas Cherbuin, Florian Kurth (2015).

Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy

Frontline Psychology.

Madhav Goyal, Sodal Singh (2014).

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-beingA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

JAMA, 174:3

Michael D. Mrazek, Michael S. Franklin, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, Benjamin Baird, Jonathan W. Schooler (2013).

Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering.

Online Volume 24:5. Clinical Psychology

The Top 5 Benefits of Meditation

Several women practicing yoga in sunlight

It’s too easy to lose contact with your inner self while you constantly negotiate your busy, stressful life to try and get everything done.

It seems counterintuitive, but slowing down to just sit and breathe for a while can actually make you more productive and happier, and the benefits of meditation don’t stop there.

It’s been shown that regular meditation changes the way your brain and body react to stress, making you more self-aware, calmer, and able to take setbacks and even chronic pain in your stride.

This Is Your Brain On Meditation

When you practice meditation you can reduce stress and inflammation in the body that can cause illness and disease.

This is one of the major reasons why people start a meditation routine.

It can be hard to get started, and to find the time to meditate, but it’s free and you can do it almost anywhere. Even meditating for a few minutes a day can improve your stress and anxiety levels.

Making You A Nicer Person

It’s not that you’re not a nice person, but sometimes you’re at your wit’s end with everything you have to deal with in a single day, and being kind all the time is just too hard.

When you meditate you become calmer, and you not only reconnect with yourself, you increase your empathy and make better connections with others.

Meditation makes you able to read the facial expressions and body language of others, and you become kinder and more understanding.

Most of us want to be better, kinder people but when we have an opportunity to show kindness we often push the thought away and don’t act on it. A regular meditation practice will make you more likely to act on your kind thoughts, and the world needs more of that.

Better Sleep

Who wouldn’t want to sleep better and wake up refreshed and eager to start the day?

Insomnia and other sleep disorders affect a large percentage of the population and many take prescription medication in an effort to get that much needed good night’s sleep.

Meditation can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, all without taking any harmful drugs.

Longer Attention Span

In order to meditate effectively you need to focus your attention on your breathing, clear your mind and stop your thoughts from wandering.

This helps increase your attention span and think more clearly, with better memory retention.

Better Overall Health

A calm and happy person is more likely to enjoy better health, be less susceptible to addictions, age better with less chance of age-related brain conditions, have lower blood pressure, less systemic inflammation, and the list goes on.

Combined, these health benefits could ensure you live a long and happy life.

Helping You Reap the Benefits of Meditation

Pinnacle Health Group believes that healthier workplaces create healthier people, and we want to inspire change in every workplace.

We provide state-of-the-art health clinics, corporate health services, and property wellbeing initiatives to meet the demands of a progressive, modern lifestyle.

Call us on (03) 9600 3590 or contact us online for enquiries about our health and wellbeing services, or make a booking at one of our locations in Victoria or NSW.

Why Everyday is an R U OK Day

R U Ok day is more than just about suicide prevention. It is about taking the time out to find out how our family and friends are doing, taking the time to connect with one another and reflect on our well-being. Well-being of not just others, but also ourselves.

But how do we go about doing it? Is there a right way? Are we saying the right things?

  • You: The first thing to ask yourself is whether you are ready to hear “No” as an answer to that question. Are you willing and in the right mindset to be there unconditionally for that person? It is ok if you don’t think you are the right person or might not have the coping skills to manage it. Like we hear on airplanes, it is important to put on your own mask before helping someone else. Maybe we can find someone else in our network to check in or find a suitable time to be there for them. Sometimes, simply knowing you are there for them helps.
  • Asking the question: This is the easier part- being genuine in asking them how they are doing and what has been happening is enough. Mentioning any changes you might have noticed in them can prompt them to share more than a superficial “I’m good”.
  • Listen: Just be a non-judgemental ear. It is not about solving their problem or telling them “It’s normal” (unless they ask for it). Let them talk about their feelings, no matter how irrational it may sound to you. That is their truth and the validation that someone can listen without judging is sometimes all we need.
  • Help: We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Sometimes asking them the person if they have been through something similar and reminding them of how they got through it, reminds them of their strengths. Encourage them to seek help and reduce stigma of professional help through examples of personal experience.
  • Continued care: Continuing to help them through the recovery process and continuing to check up on them reminds people of their support network. It reminds them that they don’t have to do it alone.

As Ellen Degeneres says, Be kind to one another!

 

 

Managing Stress in the Workplace

By Pinnacle Health Group Psychologist Beulah Joseph

 

Stress can be simplified as a mismatch in the resources we feel are available to us, and the demands or pressures that life can throw our way.

What is important to know, is that most of us have felt this way at some point – and particularly in the corporate workplace environment, many of my clients are all too familiar with the demands of work outweighing the time or resources side of the see-saw.

It is also important to note that a certain level of stress is required for optimal arousal, and very-low stress levels can often lead to boredom and under-performance, depending of course on the individual and the environment. However, when the levels of stress move past the optimal level, it commonly leads to anxiety, fear, social withdrawal, poorer cognition and thinking, and physical changes such as poor sleep, high blood pressure and stomach issues.

 

Here are 3 key focus areas to manage stress in the workplace:

 

  1. Self-talk – we all have an inner dialogue that changes depending on our mood or stress levels. Managing your self-talk to avoid negative inner-thoughts such as catastrophising or “labelling” pressures at work as “impossible” or “out of your depth” are negative examples of self-talk that can increase stress at work. When having this dialogue when stressed, try other options such as “this is hard, but I have done it before” or other positive cues to help manage stress,

 

  1. Self-care – the basics of diet, sleeping, and exercise are very important in stress management, and your overall wellbeing. Whilst very simple, we often ignore these and it can lead to changes in stress levels or ability to manage stress – so focus on the basics first!

 

  1. Self-soothing – it is important to identify and acknowledge emotions, and be “mindful”. We all have different ways to do this, but the first step in identifying stress is acknowledging the feelings associated with it, and using techniques such as exercise, meditation, counselling, talking with friends or family – or other techniques you have used before – to manage stress levels.

 

I specialise in managing workplace pressures,  and providing counselling and support to improving performance in work, relationships, family and life in general. Make use of our Free Wellbeing Check and Wellbeing Questionnaire to get an idea of how I can help!