10 March 2014

Ian Gawler Blog: Enough with gratitude

Gratitude may well be one of the most positive forces for good in our lives. New research is even showing it has potentially major benefits. Yet let’s be practical, how much gratitude is enough? How to develop gratitude as a regular state of mind? How to be grateful when life is not so easy?

This week I am on retreat once more and so I have called for a guest blog. Roxy Lebsanft was motivated by her personal and clinical experience that many women these days are feeling over whelmed, exhausted and isolated as they struggle to cope effectively with stress, relationships, work and family.

Roxy responded by helping to set up Bare Hands with the aim of assisting women to build sustainable relationships through practical education, see her website below.

Here is what she has to offer us, but first

Thought for the day

The mind is its own place,
And in itself can make a heaven of hell,
A hell of heaven

                John Milton, Paradise Lost

Gratitude - it is more than an attitude.

Ian suggested I write on something dear to my heart and as our passion with the Bare Hands Project is to build sustainable relationships through practical strategies, I thought I would discuss one strategy that I believe is fundamental to finding balance, wellbeing and contentment - gratitude.

This week, one of our lovely workshop participants, Katrina, heard a quote that struck a deep chord with her and she shared it with our group. It made all of us stop, take a breath and become present.

Gratitude is what makes what you have, enough! (Source unknown)

In our current culture, gratitude comes naturally when things are going in a seemingly positive direction - success, recognition, reward, ease, abundance, health, happiness, joy, excitement, etc.

When relationships are ‘up’ – it is relatively easy to feel confident, connected, accepted, loved and loving. This is the perfect time to practice gratitude as a strategy, so that when the going gets tough, you have built a habit of mind that can rapidly get you ‘unstuck’ from feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious. This is the preventative side of this phenomenal tool.

Strengthening the ‘gratitude strategy muscle’ requires amplifying the positives. Too often we forget to express gratitude and appreciation when life is busy and full of distractions. However, these are the times when you have golden opportunities to be present, to appreciate, connect and build resilience in your relationships, the glue that will hold things together during ‘stormy seasons’.

Develop a habit of noticing and sharing, (internally about yourself and externally to others) things that are working and going right. Express your appreciation. In can be the simple, small things - a smile, someone offering to do a chore first, silence, whatever tickles your fancy. Let people know that you notice.

But what if things seem bleak? Some days may not be a bed of roses and for as many ups as there may be, there will be an equal number of challenges. Such is the natural balance and order of life.

It can be really difficult to be grateful when you are unwell, unhappy, stressed and doing it tough. The mind can get stuck in a rut of looking at how bad things are and focusing on everything that seems to be going wrong.

Michael Yapko, PhD, who specialises in treating depression, suggests that simply going through a gratitude list of three things, once a day for a week (either on waking or before going to bed), can dramatically improve depression, (even if it is severe) and even more remarkably, if the exercise is discontinued after only a week. (Depression is Contagious, 2009) The results last for months and there are no side effects! This is the curative side of gratitude.

How does it work? It is our natural instinct to resist challenge, discomfort and displeasure and yet, “What we resist, persists”. For any situation there are equal positives and negatives. All we have to do is lean into what is happening, get really curious rather than defensive or resistant.

The mind is a master at finding balance if we allow it to observe wholeheartedly. If you can trust that in the most dire of circumstances, the most challenging situations, there are an equal number of opportunities and positives to be found, engage your curiosity to find them, very quickly, meaning and purpose will appear along with a solution.

In this space, exactly what you have, where you are and what is happening, is enough. From here, you are empowered to either accept things as they are and find true contentment or you have the freedom to change and make different choices.

Thank you for listening and warm wishes,

Roxy Lebsanft  GDipCouns, BHSc. Co-founder Bare Hands www.barehands.com.au

Reference: Yapko, M. (2009), Depression is Contagious, Free Press, USA.

Curiosity, humour and exercise

CD (or MP3 download)  Emotional Health – where I speak on a 2 CD set about how to develop manage and transform destructive emotional states, and how to maintain healthy emotions, healthy relationships.http://www.iangawlerwebstore.com/cds-dvd

Meditation in the Forest - Yarra Junction - April 11 - 17, 2014
There are only a couple of places left on this pre-Easter retreat so call soon if you wish to attend - The Gawler foundation 03- 59671730 or click on the link above.

Cancer, Healing and Wellbeing - Auckland - May 16th - 23rd , 2014

Ruth and I are very pleased to have been invited to New Zealand (Aussies welcome!) to present an 8

day cancer recovery program residential program in May. This program, while being evidence based, will be highly experiential.

We will cover the full range of Integrative Medicine options, with the emphasis on what people can do for themselves – therapeutic nutrition, exercise and meditation, emotional health, positive psychology, pain management, the search for meaning and so on.

I will personally present the majority of the content but along with Ruth, participants will have the additional support and experience of Liz Maluschnig and Stew Burt; two very experienced and committed New Zealanders.

For details on this and the other cancer related residential programs for 2014 CLICK HERE

Understanding Death, Care for the Dying
A residential retreat building resources for Spiritual and Emotional support

I had the good fortune to meet Christine Longacre (CV: Click here) many years ago and know her well enough to highly recommend a rare opportunity to attend a seminar with her in Australia that focuses on caring for the dying – as individual carers or health professionals.

Maybe it seems a little strange to include details of a seminar on Understanding Death, Care for the Dying along with a post on gratitude, but awareness of death serves to heighten our gratitude for how precious life is, and how fragile it can be.

The basic premise of this training is that when others are suffering, what helps them the most, more than anything we say or do, is how we are. Thus the training introduces contemplative methods and practical skills that enable participants to develop qualities of compassionate caregiving: presence, authenticity, and confidence.

Methods of mindful listening and communication are practiced throughout, so integration of these skills into work and daily life becomes possible.

Dates: Friday 20th June 2014  at 9am to Tuesday 24th June at 5 pm
Group leaders: Christine Longaker, supported by Alexandra Yuille and Wendy Wright
Where: Foothills Conference Centre, Mooroolbark, Melbourne, Australia
Fee: Includes accommodation and all meals
Early bird: $1300 twin-share or $1500 single
From 1 April: $1450 twin-share or $1650 single

Certifcate of Completion, Continuing Professional Development by request.
Bookings: Click here https://registration.rigpa.org.au/index.php?option=com_users&view=login
Note: Registration is managed by Rigpa - you will be prompted to create a login before you can sign up to the course
Enquiries: SCP Australia via australia@spcare.org

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