Wise Words for Creating solutions That Work forAll

Here in St. Louis, the doldrums of winter are giving way to spring. Buds are appearing on the trees, blades of green grass pushing out of the ground, and flowers are bursting into bloom. Everywhere new growth is beginning to emerge. In celebration of new growth, this post focuses on the emergence of solutions that honor the the best of ourselves while adapting to change in meeting the needs of all.

Count Your Blessings

Successful Relating
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D. Editor
November - Decenber 2005

In this issue:

1.  Welcome
2.  Count Your Blessings
3.  Mindset of Gratitude
4.  A Challenge
5.  Announcements

1.  Welcome
Welcome to my ninth e-newsletter on "Creating a New Story." In the process of celebrating Thanksgiving, many Americans took the opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings in their lives.

Giving thanks is a form of gratitude, which is a basic feeling of appreciation for the goodness and wonder of life. Expressing gratitude gives us a sense of well-being and connection with our friends, family, and community.

In this e-newsletter, I would like to share with you the initial results of research that shows how expressing gratitude is the beginning step of
creating a "New Story" in your life.

2. Count Your Blessings

Remember the story I shared with you in February about the world-famous researcher on depression, Martin Seligman, who was told by his five-year-old
daughter that he was a "grouch?" His daughter affected him so greatly that he decided to no longer be a grouch but rather to put his focus on the joyful and positive aspects of life.

I recently received the result of his preliminary research on the impact of gratitude in reducing severe depression.  Being depressed does not make for a very happy life.  Individuals who are severely depressed cry a great deal and experience hopelessness in most areas of their lives.

Seligman gave a group of depressed individuals a depression questionnaire and an Authentic Happiness Inventory.  The participants were then asked to write
down each evening, three things that went well that day and why they went well. At the end of the week the participants took the two tests again.  The results were surprising.

After taking the first online questionnaires, and completing the nightly blessing exercise, 94% of the severely depressed respondents expressed a decrease in
their depression (on average greater than 50%) and 92% expressed an increase in their happiness. These changes occurred in an average of just 14.8 days! Seligman claims these results are comparable to the emotional effects of antidepressant medications and cognitive therapy.

While the initial results are very positive, Seligman states that it is important to be cautious in the interpretation of these results due to a couple of methodological flaws.  There was no control group, and there was no measurement of drop-outs. He advises his readers: "Do not throw away your medication or
shout that reflecting on your blessings cures depression."

3. Mindset of Gratitude  

I believe that counting your blessings is just the beginning of a broader change in your mindset about life. When we look for the good in everyone and in every experience, we uplift others and ourselves.  This promotes a sense of good
will.  Everyone needs encouragement, and when we give encouragement we are more likely to get encouragement back.
When we experience challenges, we can choose to appreciate the learning opportunities that come with them, regardless of whether we view them as fortunate or unfortunate.  We can look at the experience for what it has to teach us. This constitutes the mindset of gratitude

When our goal is to avoid an uncomfortable or painful situation, we experience ourselves as needy and weak. We give the external situation power rather than discovering power within ourselves. This prevents us from using our creativity to view the challenge differently. As a consequence, we cheat ourselves of the pleasure of being able to overcome it. Gratitude shifts us to the higher vibration of love and appreciation, which restores our sense of personal power.  

4. The Challenge

During this Holiday Season you may find yourself in situations that challenge your feelings of gratitude. Gift-giving is often highly stressful, as are the bills that follow the gifts.  The very act of shopping can be exhausting and irritating because of the crowds, the traffic, and additional noise. Holiday songs
often manipulate us to not only spend more than we can afford, but also can create in us feelings of sadness when the reality of our relationships do not match the portrayed happiness in the advertisements and songs.  The consumer aspect of Christmas can overshadow the appreciation of what we have and put our focus on materialism rather than on the joy and warmth of
our relationships.    

I want to challenge you to partake in Seligman's experiment this holiday season.  Every night, in a notebook, write down at least three things that went well during the day and why they went well. This need only take a few minutes, but may
require some introspection on your part.  I can assure you that your efforts will be greatly rewarded.

If you cannot find anything to be grateful about each day, be aware that this comes from resistance on your part, to the good that is in your life.  This Universe is abundant and Spirit wants to give you everything you truly desire. Only you can
"put your foot on the hose" and stop the flow of goodness that is waiting to come to you.  One method of releasing resistance is to look as hard as you can for good things in any area of your life and to shine the light of appreciation on it.

"If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."
Rabbi Harold Kushner.

5. Announcements

Coming Soon: 

Leadership for Evolutionary Change: Becoming Inclusive.  This workshop will be held at the Soul Esteem Center. Date to be announced.  Email me for a flyer.

Happy Holidays,

Dr. Alice



© Copyright 2005 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved.

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