How to Turn Down the Noise in Your Life
DON'T WORRY, BE THANKFUL
Study after study has shown that stress can rob us of our concentration. And
the only thoughts that are strong enough to compete with stress are those of
appreciation — so concluded Hans Selye, M.D., the endocrinologist who
discovered biological stress back in 1956. Focus expert Lucy Jo Palladino,
Ph.D., explains why being thankful soothes us: "Our thoughts of gratitude
decrease the fight-or-flight brain chemical norepinephrine, and that returns us
to a relaxed yet alert state."
You can develop gratitude as a practical skill, adds Palladino: Every night,
write down five things from the day that you're thankful for — even little
occurrences. Listing them will improve your outlook, research shows. And when
you're under stress at work and can't think straight, step back from your
emotions and find reasons to be grateful: Not everyone has such a good job.
My demanding boss is upgrading my skills and making me more marketable. My
coworkers are real lifesavers.
A Japanese approach to gratitude, Naikan, is a powerful alternative: Think
with appreciation of everyone in the chain of action who produced that take-out
salad you had for lunch: the farmer who planted the seeds for the lettuce, the
workers who gathered it, the truckers who transported it, the chef who
purchased it, the kitchen staff who washed and cut it, the cashier who rang it
up. When you reflect on all the people and forces that brought that salad to
you, you'll appreciate its taste and nourishment even more.
Or start your day the way the Iroquois do. For thousands of years, they've
greeted the morning with a prayer thanking the natural world for its
life-sustaining gifts, naming each one — the sun, waters, plants, animals,
stars, and so on. "In today's world, you could adapt that practice by
looking out the window and giving thanks for all you see," says Palladino.
"Even when the car needs an overhaul or you found a new wrinkle this
morning, this practice refocuses you on the gifts that are your natural
Originally published on October 16, 2008
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