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Cultivating Gratitude

Cultivating Gratitude

Is your glass half-empty or half-full? Many psychologists believe that your answer to this question depends on what you regularly focus on. If you routinely focus on negative things and complain about them then, no surprises here, you will be a grouch. And you will never run out of things to complain about. It is like driving through life and all of your attention is focused on the dead flies and smears on your windscreen. You miss out on the scenery.

Admittedly, finding a positive focus can be a challenge. One strategy, finding three positive things at the end of every day, can be deceptively powerful in balancing our brain’s tendency to dwell on the negative.

Another strategy, a favourite of mine, is to use the Japanese practice of self-reflection called Naikan. This basically involves routinely asking yourself three questions about a person in your life. This person can be whoever you want it to be; a work colleague, your spouse, your boss, anyone at all). The questions are; “What have I received from this person?”, “How have I supported this person?” and “How have I caused troubles or difficulties for this person?” You really have to try this practice on a regular basis to appreciate how powerful it can be. Mostly our minds settle on the question that isn’t included in this practice. That is, ‘What troubles or difficulties has this person caused for me?’ Instead, focusing on these three questions helps us to see the bigger picture. This practice, can be a game-changer in helping us feel more humble, grateful and appreciative of others and the world in general. Being able to appreciate, savour and feel grateful are powerful antidotes against our tendency to focus on the negative.

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