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A is for Appreciation

Author: null null Published: 11th May 2012 13:10
‘The little things? The little moments? They aren't little.'
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Skeleton leafOne of our most common mental habits is to notice what's wrong with our lives, what we haven't got, how annoying other people can be - what I call noticing the dog pooh rather than the flowers. This may seem rather harmless, and having a good old moan is certainly the stuff of many conversations. But it's a bad habit when it comes to our mental wellbeing.

Research has shown that changing this habit to one of regular expressions of appreciation or gratitude can have a really beneficial effect, reducing stress and other negative emotions such as jealousy and resentment.

Studies carried out in the United States have demonstrated that when people practice counting their blessings on a regular basis, for example keeping a ‘gratitude diary' or writing down three things each day which they appreciate, their ‘happiness scores' significantly increase. This includes research with people experiencing neuromuscular diseases and cancer.

Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, has conducted several studies and says:

"Preliminary theories look at the brain chemistry and hormones in the blood and neurotransmitters in the brain that are connected to feelings of gratitude. And the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is also associated with positive emotions like love and compassion, seems to be a key spot, especially in Buddhist monks"

Appreciation exercises work best when practiced regularly. At first it can feel difficult, especially if you're feeling depressed or anxious. But it quickly becomes easier, as you notice more and more things about your life or other people that you appreciate. The benefits mean you may feel more alert, alive, interested, enthusiastic, as well as more connected to others.

Here is a short appreciation exercise to use daily or weekly:

Noticing Abundance
Write down 5 things which you appreciate about your life
Now write down 5 people you'd like to thank for their contribution to your life
Click here to read more extracts from the Good Mental Health Guide blog
Click here for information about free resources and local workshops for good mental health
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