Tag Archives: gratitude

Little Drops of Quiet

Hi Everyone,

“I was talking with a friend recently who asked me a question. I paused to think for a few moments, and my friend interrupted ‘are you ok? Is something wrong?’.” Told by Jenny Fox Eades, March 2010

Jenny (Note 1), my friend, colleague and fellow traveller in Positive Psychology, has been working in Canberra and Melbourne these past three weeks. She and I had an interesting discussion about pausing, taking time, and using silence to consider what to say or do next.

Jenny is a great supporter of little drops of quiet.

Our chat had particular resonance because I have attended Jenny’s Celebrating Strengths program and experienced first hand how she works with (and more importantly how she role models) pausing, quietness, silence and mindfulness.  Further, I have just returned from a fabulous retreat for executives and leaders: ‘Cultivating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness’ where the facilitators, Saki Santorelli and Janice Marturano (Note 2) helped us to learn the value of pausing and making space.

These ideas, which are not new, have also begun to be reported on in a number of positive psychology articles, books and other literature.  For example,

  1. Tal Ben-Shahar suggests that “We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze more and more activities into less and less time. Consequently, we fail to savor, to enjoy. To become a life connoisseur, to enjoy the richness that life has to offer, we need to take our time.”
  2. Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté offer a range of calming techniques to help build strength, health and resilience
  3. Barbara Fredrickson reports on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to help build positivity
  4. Todd Kashdan writes about taking time to be open and curious: “The more we automatically and mindlessly categorize thoughts, feelings and other people, the more we suffer. Well-being stumbles when we go on auto-pilot.”
  5. Oberdan Marianetti and Jonathan Passmore argue that “only by slowing down, can one be at once more effective and more satisfied.  In fact, it is the engaging in moments of inner stillness that creates opportunities to step out of this overwhelming flow, regain composure, strength and clarity of thought, to rejoin the flow and follow it harmoniously.”

Decompressing Time

Back to my conversation with Jenny, I asked her talk more about her thoughts on pausing and taking time:

“Of all the strengths, I think it is gratitude that most requires us to pause.  We need to stop and think ‘this is good’.  Gratitude is the first casualty of stress.  If you don’t stop, you don’t have time to feel grateful. I am particularly struck by the work of David Steindl-Rast who wrote Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer and who is behind the wonderful website www.gratefulness.org.  He suggests that if you pause before and after actions it decompresses time. Interestingly, I find there’s a parallel here with an Alexander Technique concept known as inhibition, that before you take an action, you inhibit, you pause, and then take an action mindfully and consciously.  Alexander Technique helps us to embody pausing.

For parents and teachers, applying this with our children is the most important thing we can do: pausing, thinking before acting or speaking, asking and waiting patiently for them to respond.  Children need more time; we need to create space for them.  Pausing opens up that space and results in authentic communication. It shows respect and shows we know they have something worth saying and that it’s worth waiting for.

We can all find moments throughout the day to create little drops of quiet. It changes the quality of the day and it changes the quality of our relationships”.

Changing the quality of our relationships

Jenny’s final thought reminded me of a pleasing experience at the Cultivating Leadership Presence retreat.  A number of us found that it was in the silence and the moments of pausing that relationships deepened and strengthened.  We learnt we can connect deeply in our silence.

An invitation

How can we find moments to create little drops of quiet in our days? And, perhaps even more importantly, how can we help others to have their little drops of quiet?

~~~~~~~~~~

Note 1:

Jenny Fox Eades is a UK education advisor, works in schools with students and staff and runs training days and master classes in colleges and schools. She trained as a special needs teacher, has qualifications in counselling, group therapy and a Masters in Psychoanalytic Observational Studies. She is a graduate of Ben Dean’s and Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness Coaching Program and is a founder member of Positive Workplace International.  Jenny was in Australia to run her Celebrating Strengths Program, a whole school and community coaching program.

Note 2:

Saki F. Santorelli is Executive Director, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Janice L. Marturano is Director of Leadership Education, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society.  She is also Vice President, Public Responsibility and Deputy General Counsel, General Mills, Inc.

Book references

Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York: McGraw Hill.

Fox Eades, J (2008). Celebrating Strengths: Building Strengths-based Schools. CAPP Press

Santorelli, S. (2000) Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine. Three Rivers Press

Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life. Three Rivers Press. Now out in paperback.

Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. New York: William Morrow.

Marianetti, O, & Passmore, J “Mindfulness at Work: Paying Attention to Enhance Well-being and Performance” (2010) in Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work edited by in Linley, P.A, Harrington, S, & Garcea. Oxford University Press

Reivich, K. & Shatte, A. (2002). The resilience factor: how changing the way you think will change your life for good. New York: Broadway Books.

Steindl-Rast, D & Nouwen, H.J.M. (1984) Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness. Paulist Press

With Thanks

It’s inspiring to hear people acknowledge the good things in their lives, particularly if they have experienced troubles and difficulties.

As we come to the end of another year, it’s timely to reflect on those things for which we are grateful.

The theme of my regular emails is to bring information which helps you to thrive in your lives and your work. What follows is some great evidence about why gratitude is a good thing for us all.

One of the recognised authorities in the field of research on gratitude is Robert Emmons Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. He recently published his book on the psychology of gratitude: “Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier”. Here are some points from his research.

About gratitude

  • is outward-directed and other-directed
  • helps with humility: we would not be where we are without the contribution of other people or the things which create the goodness in our lives); involves showing respect for others by recognising their good intentions in helping us
  • is an acknowledgement that there are good things even we are feeling unhappy or if times are bad
  • is a virtue as well as an emotion
  • is morally and intellectually demanding (not fluffy, warm and fuzzy) is a choice, and is not always easy

Why does gratitude matter?

  • contributes positively to friendships and civility
  • results in increased connectedness, improved relationships and altruism
  • those with high gratitude have better relationships, and are more likely to protect and preserve those relationships
  • when people report feeling grateful, thankful and appreciative, they also feel more loving, forgiving, joyful and enthusiastic, have higher levels of positive emotions, are more resilient and can cope more effectively with stress. They may recover more quickly from illness, and benefit from greater physical health and fewer health complaints
  • protects us from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed and bitterness
  • to improve sleep, count blessings, not sheep. Counting blessings may counteract the effects of hedonic adaptation: if we consciously remind ourselves of our blessings, it should become harder to take what we have for granted
  • when we notice what we are grateful for, we are not noticing what we lack

The effect on our bodies

  • drives out the toxic emotions of resentment, anger and envy
  • gratitude and appreciation can restore the natural rhythms of the heart
  • 23% average reduction in the stress hormone cortisol and 100% increase in the hormone DHEA, which reflects a state of physical relaxation. Increases in DHEA are correlated with increases in warm-heartedness (kindness, tolerance, appreciation, compassion)

Gratitude at Work

Aside from the scientific research, what do my clients say? Here are some comments from workshop participants on the subject of gratitude at work:

  • helps me to see the good things
  • keeps me honest
  • reminds me why I am here
  • helps me to manage change
  • maintains perspective
  • helps when I don’t have control over things
  • it gets us working at the heart level, and gets us out of our heads

“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” (Seneca)

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” (Jean Baptiste Massieu)

 

Many thanks to each and every one of you, my readers, friends, family, colleagues, and clients. Wishing you all the very best for the holiday season and the New Year.
Amanda