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Mindfulness and gratitude – what’s their connection with your health and happiness?

Does your mind focus on the problems you experience in life or on the joys – and do you have a choice about this?

As the best-selling author and lecturer Marianne Williamson wrote, “Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognise how good things really are.” But it’s so often the case that our brains focus on what’s going wrong in our lives, rather than on what’s going well. This is, in fact, a natural side-effect of evolution; in the short term and in order to survive our ancestors needed to have a strong reaction to bad things (like a near-by predator); they didn’t need a strong reaction to good things (like a beautiful view). The result, as neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D. likes to explain it, is that the modern brain is “like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones.”

But the good news is that you’re not pre-destined to spend your life focusing on perceived dangers or unpleasant events – you can re-wire your own brain using mindfulness and gratitude meditations, literally, as research has proved, changing the shape of your brain in the process. As Chris Weller writes, in Medical Daily:

“Accessing a heightened state of awareness and mindfulness ..... can alter the density of your brain’s gray matter, which is good news if you’re looking to become more empathetic, carry less stress, and excel at preserving your memory.”

Rick Hanson sees positive change as a realistic possibility:

“.... what you pay attention to – what you rest your mind upon – is the primary shaper of your brain. While some things naturally grab a person’s attention – such as a problem at work, a physical pain, or a serious worry – on the whole, you have a lot of influence over where your mind rests. This means that you can deliberately prolong and even create the experiences that will shape your brain for the better.”

Jill Kerr says...

Start finding out how you can re-wire your brain to focus on the positives in life with a FREE 15-minute session with our mindfulness coach, Gillian Duncan, at Therap-Ease during October.

You can find out more about mindfulness coaching on Gillian’s page or call Therap-Ease on 0131 447 9990 to book your free 15-minute session with Gillian during October.

Cultivating gratitude

Discover how gratitude can help you deal with challenges and how being grateful and more aware of simple joys and pleasures can help you feel happier and be more joyful. Join Gillian for a creative, inspirational workshop at The Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh, on Saturday 14th November 2015.

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