APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE
PART 1 - A BRAIN CURE.
"Everyone needs to have an enlarged capacity for appreciation and gratitude. Both help the human brain to regulate the delivery of pleasure.
Appreciation and gratitude are emotional states of mind that both help to create the right conditions for pleasure - pleasure that is enduring and that can never become addicting. If you could become addicted to showing appreciation and gratitude, it would be an addiction worth pursuing.
These emotional states not only help us to experience pleasure in the ordinary things of life, but they also help to protect the pleasure system in the brain from being led astray and depending only on super-flooded thrills that can numb our pleasure pathways. They help to soothe and heal the pleasure system when it has been abused."
THRILLED TO DEATH : Dr Archibald Hart. p 194.
The initial story on the front page last weekend of our "Sunday Star Times", was headed, "Fantasy Game Turns Deadly - Online Gamer Loses Cyber Battle then Accused of Killing Opponent". The article filled in the details of the tragic story that the headline had already given away.
Games mentioned in the article such as, "Guild Wars" and "Oblivion", are only one of many activities which Hart would put in the "super-flooded thrills" category. A fair proportion of young adult literature and assorted television programs, also play on creating a hunger for thrill.
But the main point of Hart's quote, is that appreciation and gratitude help the pleasure system in our brains to remain healthy and even recover from abuse.
THE FEELING OF APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE.
We get an unexpected feeling when we verbally show we appreciate someone. When I go through the checkout at the supermarket I deliberately choose the ones operated by students. I started this subconsciously when one of our children, having finished school, had taken a trip for a year overseas. I like to ask these students about themselves, what country they come from, if they have family here in New Zealand, what they are studying, what they're doing that evening or over the weekend... And then when I've paid my bill I wish them the best in their studies and thank them for helping me with my groceries and for being prepared to chat.
We usually part with smiles all around. But I continue to experience a happy feeling all the way to the car park.
This is what Hart describes as "an extra boost of dopamine to my pleasure center".
DAMAGING OUR BRAIN'S PLEASURE CENTRE.
In his book, Hart talks a lot about the alarming way people of all ages are damaging their pleasure systems through an insatiable appetite for thrill related activities and leisure pursuits. The article in our weekend newspaper blatantly displays an horrific outcome. But my interest, while I do want to sound an alarm of this danger, is more in how to pursue the practice of appreciation and gratitude, since it is this danger's cure.
But first, please watch this youtube clip - yes it's cute, but again it shows that even at a young age a habit is very easy to start, which could affect one's pleasure centre. CUTE BABY ON YOUTUBE.
PARENTS AND THE AFFECTS OF APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE.
Parents lead by example in all areas of life, including in how we show our appreciation for something. If we routinely speak such positive thoughts out loud, our children see 'how you do it'. And of course the opposite is equally true.
Charlotte Mason gives a great illustration. "Have you ever thrown a stone into the water and watched the circles about it spread? As a matter of fact, they spread to the very shores of the pond or lake or sea into which you have thrown the stone; more, they affect the land on the further side. But those distant circles become so faint that they are imperceptible, while those nearest the point where you have thrown in the stone are clearly marked. So it is with our Gratitude. It is as if, in the first place, our home were the stone thrown in to move our being; and from the central point the circle of our gratitude widens until it embraces all men." "Ourselves": Charlotte Mason page 81-82.
Charlotte's point is that as gratitude is practiced its affect is felt by many others. It radiates out or multiplies.
Thinking of this in terms of Archibald Hart's points, gives something inspiring to think about - the pleasure systems of all those people being helped to recover or strengthen in a good way.
THE 'EMPTY' GRATITUDE COMMENT.
There is another side to practicing appreciation and gratitude which needs to be considered also. Everyone has experienced receiving an 'empty' comment of gratitude, where the speaker either gives it out of duty or politeness, or speaks of things which just do not connect as things to be appreciated for the receiver.
For example - the musician who is thanked profusely for an memorable performance with the final comment of, "... I was so glad when it was all over." My husband has a teasing habit in this area, where most nights he comes out with, "That has to be the best dinner I have ever eaten."
So to 'do the trick' of helping another's pleasure system, there needs to be reality in the comment, sincerity in the words and sentiment and some time taken to express our appreciation with our mind on that person.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ have a look at how much appreciation and gratitude is expressed in your family. Next post will include some methods to help you set up new habits in appreciation and gratitude.