Gratitude

Happy Mid Winter and may you be wrapped up and content.

You’re not feeling content?

Then you’d be one of many at this time of year. ‘Father Christmas never brings what I ask for’ moaned my youngest (mainly because he asks Santa for i-pods, I-pads, DS’s, play stations – all of which Santa thinks he is too young for).

It is easy to focus on what we lack at this time of year: people we miss, food not cooked, presents not bought, parties not attended, dreams not come true.

My mum harked after the Dickensian Christmas of songs round the fire, with extended family beaming beatifically around a table laden with food.  She could conjure up the food, but not the beaming extended family. As she, my sister and I sat down to the obligatory Queen’s speak there was always a sense of something missing, of sadness.

I’m guilty of it too. I miss my mum at this time of year. I miss Christmas with her and my sister.

And there are things I don’t miss at all.  I don’t miss having to eat Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake one after the other in one day.  I don’t miss the Queen’s speech (no offense intended – just not my thang).

As Esther and Jerry Hicks say, we have to focus on what we do want and not what we don’t want…it’s that old Law of Attraction thing again. Focus on what you want and get more of it and focus on what you don’t want and get more of that too.

Some people, of course, dispute that Law of Attraction is anything other than a load of ‘balls’.

However, science has shown that there is a part of the brain called the Reticular Activating System.

This is the part of the brain which acts as a filter to all the information we receive to our brain every minute of every day. It’s the part of the brain that makes you notice all the happy couples in the world, just when you’ve been dumped. or you buy a new car and suddenly everyone has one, or so it seems.  The RAS filters into your brain what you focus on consciously.  Our conscious mind can process 40 bits of data per second but our subconscious mind can handle 40 million bits of data per second.  If the RAS didn’t act as a filter we would be overwhelmed with information.

The RAS acts as a gatekeeper, deciding to let in to our conscious.  Now, we can help the gatekeeper by telling it what to let in.  Just as a bouncer at a club might have a list of who is or isn’t coming in, so we can program me our RAS to let into our conscious brain.

So if we focus our conscious brain on all the things we hate about Christmas, then our RAS will go looking for more things for us to find fault with.  If we focus on things to like about Christmas, then our RAS will allow more of them in, which creates a virtuous circle.

So I’m not going to tell you about the horror of youngest son breaking his arm last week (he did, it was ‘the worse break I’ve seen in 25 years’).

A Red Plaster Cast for Christmas
A Red Plaster Cast for Christmas

But I am going to tell you about how proud I am of oldest son for the way he stepped up and opened doors for the ambulance, turned off cookers, gathered what we needed, stayed calm even though he was upset and later thoughtfully brought things to us in the hospital.

I am going to tell you about our amazing friends and neighbours who stepped in minutes after it happened and looked after us all.

I’m going to tell you about the kindness and skills of the ambulance men, and the A and E triage team. I am going to tell you about the anesthetist who took time to explain how the anesthetic would feel and gave Youngest Son informed options about how he could receive it. I am going to tell you about surgeon who skillfully wired the bones back into position and then explained the X rays to us.

I’m going to tell you about Youngest Son’s bravery and stoicism throughout and Eldest Son’s compassion and maturity.

I’m going to tell you about what a great school both boys go to. Staff and pupils rallied round to support both boys and showed genuine care and affection.  My own school were also compassionate and understanding and allowed me time off.

I’m going to tell you about how we’ve had quiet time at home, on how I’ve focused on the boys and not on work, on how we’ve cosied down by the fire and watched DVDs and played cards and Scrabble.

I’m going to tell you all of this, not because I’m in denial about all the yukky bits ( I’ve had several good long cries about it on various shoulders since), but because there has been so much good come of it too.

Dr David Hamilton talks about how gratitude increases the amount of serotonin in our bodies and how this in turn improves the health of our heart, our immunity and our mood. People asked to keep gratitude journals reported an increase in their happiness levels over a period of time in contrast to the control group.  Married couples who were more appreciative of each other were happier and healthier than couples who were critical.  Read this article in Psychology Today which gives many more details about how gratitude can improve depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress, amongst other thing.

  • So, what would you like to get more of? What would you like to program your RAS to see?
  • Keep a note book by your bed and before you go to sleep jot down all the things you are proud of, grateful for, happy about and have enjoyed.

So I wish  that you should find lots to be grateful for this holiday and that you train your RAS to find even more to be grateful for in 2014.

Love

Julie

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