Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Hello Movember, meet "Grovember" - How expressing Gratitude can change your life

As a useful complement to Movember, I suggest the practice of "Grovember" - using November to establish your daily habit of expressing Gratitude. By introducing a bias towards the positive and focusing on what you DO want (rather than lamenting what you don't want), you can break the downward spiral of depression and positively influence your thinking in ways that can dramatically improve the enjoyment of life and increase your levels of happiness.

We're now in Movember (the month formerly known as November) when many men grow a moustache to raise funds and awareness on two biggest health issues men face: prostate cancer and depression.

The overall intent is to work to change established habits and attitudes men have about their health, to educate men about the health risks they face, get them to act on that knowledge and increase the chances of early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment.

This year for the first time I'm having a go and raising money for charity in memory of my brother Jim, who died this year and who often suffered from bouts of deep depression.

Raising awareness of organizations (like Beyond Blue and Mensline in Australia) that exist to help men combat depression is important work. I think it's also important to offer men the tools for a bit of self-help DIY. That's what this post is about.

How you can combat depression - and live the best life you can!

A really effective way to combat depression, and to shift your state of mind in general for the better, is to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude"

One specific practice is to intentionally and regularly record positive appreciation in a Gratitude Journal. Here's how it works:

You write down five (or more) things every day that you are grateful for

That's it.

Even Don kept a journal!
Don't be fooled! Though simple, the practice it is a surprisingly powerful way both to get out of negative/depressed states of mind and to positively influence your thinking in ways that improve your enjoyment of life.

Depression is often the result of a pervasive, circular pattern of negative thoughts. Keeping a gratitude journal breaks that pattern and re-programs your mind to think more positively.

By regularly noticing and recording things for which you're grateful, you train your brain to focus on things you like about your life (and want to have in it) rather than the things you don’t. This simple practice, done consistently, can improve your whole perspective on life.

In her book The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, University of California professor Sonja Lyubomirsky praises the practice of writing a Gratitude Journal as a good way to increase your level of happiness. In a nutshell, her research has found that "truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness."

In other words, as Lincoln said:
"People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." 

Have a Go!
And so as well as taking part in Movember, I've started keeping a regular Gratitude Journal this month. What you write down doesn't have to be huge or mind-blowing. It might not matter to anyone but you. For example, my entries for today included:

1) taking time this morning to tend to the plants on the balcony and in the flat - gives me a sense of nurturance and feeling "grounded"
2) hearing about NaNoWriMo - feel inspired about doing more writing and like the idea as a way to increase connection with others while pursuing an inherently solitary activity
3) I like that I can get Dutch goodies like speculaas, hagelslag and honingkoek in Oz - yum! (feeding belly & soul, "ethnic" food)
4) liked reading the positive inspirational quotes that come through daily on my facebook page
5) enjoyed sitting on balcony this AM eating breakfast with the springtime Sydney sunshine on my face, a full day of coaching, meeting people and writing ahead of me, and an early surf session with some mates set up for tomorrow morning

You can write things in the AM - including things you're looking forward to with the clarity of mind that comes after a good sleep, or in the PM - recording what you've appreciated about the day and to symbolically end your day, heading off to sleep with a positive frame of mind. For my part, I'm doing both as I like the idea of having a morning-and-evening ritual.

Start your journal writing today, whether it's at the start or end of the day, or both!
Continue the daily habit of expressing Gratitude consistently through November and I bet you'll notice a difference in your life. Think of it as your own personal "Grovember". It's a practical habit that, as you have learned, can profoundly change your life. Who knows, maybe it'd be better to call it GROW-vember!

Finally, if you've found this post at all helpful then I'd love you to support my Movember fundraising efforts. All amounts are appreciated as every little bit helps. Remember, anything over $2 is tax-deductible.

1 comment:

Greener Me said...

Beautiful Post Todd ~ really enjoyed reading it!