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The Power of Gratitude

June 17, 2017


“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. 

An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, what did I really see this day?”

~ John O'Donohue,  Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Science has demonstrated through the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging that a positive emotion such as gratitude and compassion broadens the minds ability and increases its capacity. (Fredrickson, 2004.) By contrast, negative states are thought to induce the opposing tendency, engendering a more "functionally fixed" narrow mindset This distinction between flexible/broad versus rigid/narrow thinking styles has been found to influence intuitive judgments, decision making, creative problem solving tasks, and industrial negotiations.


Dr Barbara Fredrickson has constructed a test to identify your positivity ratio.




So how do I become more positive? 


It is not about changing your life’s circumstance or making big decisions or setting goals for the future. Although these processes may be required later when you are in a better mindset The first step is changing your attitude and focus on what you are grateful for no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.


Movie method


Try this exercise, have a pen and paper at hand.


Sit in a quite space and close your eyes. Take a breath in and breath out slowing. Focus on your day or the day before; watch it like your watching a video of yourself.  Try and see the expression on your face or sense your mood Do this for several minutes. 


Jot down on your note pad:


Your immediate reaction to watching yourself.

Which aspects of the day did you enjoy most, did you smile or laugh?

Which aspects of the day did you focus on?  The positive or negative experiences.


Repeat this exercise; watch the video of yourself again this time with the mindset of gratitude. Keep exploring your memory of your day until you can identify 5 aspects that you could be grateful for such as:


•The bus was on time
•I enjoyed my cup of coffee
•I had a nice chat with a friend
•The day ended
•I watched my favorite movie


Gratitude is a natural uplifting psychological component to happiness. It will quell negative thinking and direct you to being in the moment. The opposite of gratitude is not selfishness or loneliness it is an emotion “melancholy” (pensive sadness, gloomy character).


Like every behavior if you do it often enough it will develop into a habit. You have the choice to create a habit of thinking of all that is wrong, unfair or not working in your life. Creating an attitude of discontent, despondency and anger. 


Alternately you could practice gratitude on a daily basis and train your thoughts to create an attitude of wellbeing.


I realize it’s not that simple!


There are situations in life when we are bereaved, sad, scared, brokenhearted or overwhelmed with life events. There are physical and mental health issues that can disrupt our thinking compass. I am not suggesting that gratitude can prevent emotional pain but in may alter the intensity of the experiencing. However, all of these painful emotions are part of our emotional curriculum and are usually experienced at some time. Often we need to go through and manage these in order to experience and appreciate love, optimism and gratitude.


“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” 

~ Alphonse Karr,  A Tour Round My Garden

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