Why Gratitude is so Powerful for your Brain

Why Gratitude is so Powerful for your Brain

Why is the simple practice of gratitude so helpful?
It is good for our brain and makes us more effective:

  1. Positive emotions fill our brain with dopamine and serotonin.  These chemicals make us feel good and increase our ability to learn.  They help us process new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and remember it faster later on.  
  1. Feeling happy improves our ability to perform tasks and solve problems.  
  1. We feel better when we think happy thoughts.  People who are grateful are more energetic and emotionally intelligent.  

Gratitude is powerful!
Many years ago, I decided to try out this gratitude thing.  It sounded good, but I always test things on myself to see if they work, before I share them with my clients.  After 2-4 weeks of a daily gratitude practice, I noticed I started feeling spontaneously grateful throughout the day.  It actually caught me by surprise!  I could tell my neural pathways were being built and strengthened.
What’s the best way to practice gratitude? 
Our neural pathways can be rewired faster if we have a feeling attached to the thoughts because it uses more of our brain.  
Here are two simple exercises you can do to help retrain your brain into grateful thinking: 

  1. Spend 30 seconds just FEELING gratitude.  Pay attention to what is happening in your body.  Do you feel your chest expanding?  Do you feel it becoming bigger and warmer? Do you notice a change in your breathing? There is no right way to feel gratitude.  Just notice how it feels in your body.  
  1. List 3 things for which you are grateful.  Feel true gratitude for what you listed. Some people prefer lists, either written or spoken aloud.  It can include the same things over and over again, or it can be as varied as you’d like. 

When is a good time to do this practice?
Morning sets you up for your day and bed-time thinking shapes how you perceive the experiences in your life.  Both are important, and feel free to award yourself plenty of bonus points if you practice morning and night!
While the time of day is an important factor, the most important part is the actual feeling.  You can take 30 seconds at any point during the day to feel gratitude!
Practice it and let me know how it works for you!  
I am thrilled to announce I am offering my on-line course 7 Powerful Practices for Your Inner Perfectionist in January! 
What if everything you knew about being perfect was wrong? 

  1. Are you hard on yourself?
  2. Do you worry about being judged by others?
  3. Do you always judge your results as not good enough, no matter how hard you worked?
  4. Do you want to be a better person?

If you answered “yes” to 2 or more of these questions, this course is for you!  
I will give you tools that create lasting change
Click below to find out more. 

7 Powerful Practices: Learn More or Sign Up!

Take care

What to do With Intrusive Thoughts

What to do With Intrusive Thoughts

Have you ever had thoughts that just keep repeating, and repeating…and repeating?

You try to stop them.  You try to distract yourself, yet they just keep looping.

– Nope.  Me neither.  (Oh, how I wish that were true.)

If you are like most (read all) humans, you sometimes have thoughts that just won’t go away.  It happened to me today, which is why I am sitting at my dining room table at 8 o’clock at night, writing this newsletter.

I got triggered and the story started.  It is an old story, one I’ve played again, and again, many times in my life.

I tried distraction—e-mail didn’t work.  I tried thinking of things I am grateful for—the intrusive thoughts kept shoving those thoughts aside.  I went for a walk in nature—nope.

None of it worked.

So I brought out the workhorse of tools—filling my mind with a statement that is even more repetitive (because it was all I let myself think, and repeat without stopping) than my intrusive thoughts.

It worked, thank goodness, because the story I was running in my head was making me miserable.  Here’s the thing though.  It didn’t work after 5 minutes.  It didn’t work after an hour.  It did work after several hours.  Remember, this is the work horse of tools, not the race horse.

Here’s what I do. 

I choose a statement and proceed to repeat it like a mantra, without stopping. 

I flood my consciousness with statements that bring me peace and calm instead of allowing the ones that create misery.
And I keep repeating them.
And repeating them.
And repeating them.  

If I stop and the pain-causing thoughts come back, I repeat my statement some more.
I keep doing it until I break the stranglehold of my old story, and I have a choice over my thoughts again.

I have several statements I use to bring me into the present vs. the story that is bringing me pain.  When working with clients, I help them craft good statements for them.  Since you are reading this and not sitting in my office, I will give you three of my favorite ones to use in general.

  •  I am loving myself.
  •  Even though I am having these thoughts, I am loving myself.
  •  The Loving Kindness Prayer I adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh:

May I be at peace.
May I be free from suffering.
May I be well.
May I know the light of my own true nature.  

This practice is not a quick, easy fix.  It is not sexy.  It takes persistence.  It can take awhile to stop the intrusive thoughts, and it uses all your brain power.  That is the whole point.  When you have intrusive thoughts they hijack your thinking anyway.  So you might as well choose what you want to think.
You can choose to think thoughts that bring you pain, or thoughts that bring you peace.

Sometimes change happens one thought as a time.

You choose.

If you are interested in gaining more tools, that are a little more fun, and just as effective, see below for the on-line course I will be offering in January called the 7 Powerful Practices for your Inner Perfectionist.

7 Powerful Practices: Learn More or Sign Up!

In the Spotlight – My Clarity TV interview

This month I am offering an interview I did with Dolores Hirschmann on Clarity TV.  I LOVED doing it and I’m excited to share it with you! I tell my story of the event that set me on my path to self-love–when I learned to move from victim to choosing. I also share:

  1. What to do with fear
  2. The super-secret power of imagination
  3. Affirmations that actually work!
  4. At the very end, a tool to help you be kinder to yourself
  5. Are you hard on yourself?
  6. Are you afraid of being judged by others?
  7. Do you always judge your results as not good enough, no matter how hard you worked?
  8. Do you want to be a better person?

Take care,

Therapy Chat Podcast | 204: Learning To Be Kind With Ourselves

Therapy Chat Podcast | 204: Learning To Be Kind With Ourselves

In this episode, host Laura Reagan, speaks to Dr. Jane Tornatore about learning to be kind with ourselves. Dr. Jane Tornatore has dedicated her career to helping people be kinder to themselves. Her style incorporates compassion, curiosity, deep listening, and heartfelt optimism, along with powerful shots of playfulness. She draws on her extensive professional training and wide-ranging life experiences to help people release old patterns and unnecessary stress.

The Problem With Blaming…  And upcoming news!

The Problem With Blaming… And upcoming news!

We all blame.  As Brene Brown says, “Blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain.”  When mistakes are made, our first response is to try to find whose fault it is.  A natural response, but not helpful.

Here is an entertaining (less than 4 minute) video on blaming by the brilliant Brene Brown.  Watch it—you will enjoy it. You might even spend a little less time blaming in the future.

Also, next month I will be announcing my new program — 7 Powerful Practices for Your Inner Perfectionist.  Yay!!!!!  If you have been wanting to work with me, but can’t come into my office every week, this program is for you!

Take Care,

When You Want to Forgive Yourself

When You Want to Forgive Yourself

I recently made a big mistake; I spammed over 5000 people.  It was not one of my finest moments, but it was a mistake—I didn’t start out the day deciding I wanted to piss off a bunch of people I didn’t know.  

When I realized what happened I didn’t respond perfectly (what a surprise.)  I blamed myself. I blamed other people. I tried to find fault.

I realized my response wasn’t helping anyone, so I started using a tool I employ when I want to forgive myself and others.  I will share it in a bit because it is awesome to help facilitate forgiveness, but not quite yet…

The problem was, in attempting to jump to forgiveness, I was bypassing my feelings.  Instead of feeling my response to the situation, I was trying to do the “correct” thing, to forgive right away.

You may remember my April newsletter talked about not bypassing big feelings like fear.  It outlined how being with our feelings can help them pass more quickly.  It is a powerful practice and I totally forgot about it as I was trying to not feel bad, and was pinning fault on whomever I could.

As I was sitting there, trying to forgive, I quickly realized there was no way I could forgive anyone, especially myself, in that moment.

I was angry, and I was scared that 5000 people hated me and were cursing my existence.  So I stopped trying to forgive and I just felt my anger and my fear. I cried, my body shook, and I allowed my feelings.  It felt awful, and then it felt freeing. I took a deep breath.

After I had done the work of simply feeling my feelings, I could move on to the next step—forgiveness.  

My favorite tool to foster forgiveness is The Loving Kindness prayer Thich Nhat Hahn shares.  Below is a version I use:
May I be safe.

May I be free from suffering.

May I be well.

May I know the light of my own true nature.  

May you be safe.

May you be free from suffering.

May you be well.

May you know the light of my own true nature.  

I always say it to myself first, because I am the one who needs it the most!  Then I say it to the person, or people, or group with whom I am angry. I say it every time anger arises within me.  I keep saying it until I feel calm and at peace. Sometimes this takes a lot of repetitions!

When I say this prayer, it focuses my mind on what I actually want to feel.  I do wish we all felt safe, were free from suffering, were well, and knew the light of our true nature, even when we make mistakes.

Take care,

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