Martha Beck explains why a grateful attitude is important to your mental health.
Living is gratitude is perhaps the most powerful key for a woman to stay in positive mental health.
The reason for that, we now know, is that the part of the brain that is associated with feeling gratitude is not the same part of the brain that experiences fear and that when one of those is sort of switched on the other one automatically switches off.
Some people may have heard the phrase love casteth out all fear. The word cast doesn’t mean just to sort of make something disappear; it means to throw something away.
Perfect love casts out fear by saying, you know what, I will pick my fear up and throw it away, and the way you do that is very difficult until you figure it out all the way to just not be afraid, is to start focusing on things for which you are grateful and it literally creates this little brain switch where suddenly, you can’t be afraid.
So what I do is whenever I am driving and I am a stop light or I am caught in traffic I go through a list of 20 things that I am grateful for and I just say thank you for those things.
And the rule is I can never repeat myself and I have never had to repeat myself, because even though there are things that go wrong in our lives when you start listing everything that’s gone right just today.
The fact that your heart is still beating, your lungs are still breathing, people have been kind to you, nobody has broken into your house. If they have, maybe the police exist and can come to help you.
As soon as you start noticing what’s positive it just lifts you out of fear and struggle.
I had one woman at a seminar who, she was in tears and she just kept saying everything’s out to get me, everything’s out to get me.
And she had lived in agony thinking this thought for 20-30 years. So I gave her an assignment to list 100 things that were working for her that day.
So she went off with her list and an hour later she came back looking 20 years younger, just joyful and radiant.
It was a complete rebirth for her and it was that fast, that easy. Now she will have to do that every day to make it change her brain but she is already well on the way.
About Martha Beck:
Martha Beck, Ph.D., is a writer and life coach who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics.
Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers “Expecting Adam” and “Leaving the Saints,” as well as “Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live” and her newest book, “Steering by Starlight.” Dr. Beck has also been a contributing editor for many popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook, and is currently a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine.