Tag Archives: psychology today

Why Gratitude is the Best (and Only) Option

nov13_2016

Point to Ponder:
Who or what are you grateful for?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

This summer, during our Banff, Canada iGnite Escape, each evening we found ourselves relaxing in the outdoor hot tub that overlooked the mountains while playing a get-to-know-you card game. One card with a random question would be chosen and each of us would have an opportunity to answer it. The questions were innocent, fun, thought-provoking and a great way to learn more about one another. A few examples of the questions were: “if you got a tattoo, what would you get and why?; if you could choose to be a different ethnicity, what would it be and why; and when feeling down or depressed, what do you do to boost your spirit? My answers were I’d get a cross tattoo, I’d be Brazilian, and when I feel down, I write gratitude notes.

Keeping a gratitude journal or writing gratitude notes are two of the greatest antidotes to the blues. Personally, they pull me outside of myself and allow me to shift my focus to a person or persons who I am thankful for as well as for the blessings in my life. And, while life stressors are intense and heavy, what we focus on is what shows up, so to me, focusing on who and what we are thankful for is the only viable option. Or, if you need more proof to the power of gratitude, check out the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude from a 2015 article from Psychology Today.

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.
  2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.
  5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.

iGnite believes in gratitude- living in and with it as well as expressing it. As a result, over the past four years and during the week before Thanksgiving, in all of our classes we have provided gratitude note cards for our members to write to anyone they want. As a result of our feel-good gratitude initiative, iGnite has mailed over 1200 gratitude notes that are delivered during the week of Thanksgiving, and after this week, we hope to make that number at least 1500.

Throughout this week, you will be given the opportunity to write a gratitude note or notes to anyone you’d like. All you need to do is have their addresses and we will make sure they have postage and are mailed by next Monday and received the week of Thanksgiving. If you can’t make it to class, I invite you to join our important and impactful gratitude initiative. Not only will your effort and words lift you up, but they will for sure lift up the receiver, and therefore the butterfly effect, the concept that small causes can have large effects, begins.


Action Item:
Use this week, the week before Thanksgiving, to write gratitude notes to those who you are grateful for.


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Be a Novice, Keep Moving & Stay Young

How to Stay Energized, Renewed and Balanced Throughout Your Summer, Part III

iGnite - June26_2016 2

Point to Ponder:
How often do you practice being a beginner?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

This weekend I attended a portion of the Yoga Journal Conference in San Diego with iGnite Leader and friend, Amy Younkman. Amy leads our yoga and Power Pilates classes, has attended the Yoga Journal Conference for many years and always returns with excellent information. While we attended different classes, the one class that we took together was led by Bo Forbes and titled “Body Maps: The Road to Healthy Aging, Pain Modulation and Emotional Balance.”  Bo teaches yoga throughout the world, and, interestingly, she is also a psychologist. She is a yogi-brainiac, and she specializes in integrating yoga, mindfulness, neuroscience, psychology and movement studies and she has worked with professional sports teams, corporations, healthcare professionals worldwide. Obviously, she is a wealth of fascinating knowledge, all of which I am so eager to share with you because as Amy and I did, you are going to love it!

First, in regard to the physical aging portion of her class, what science is finding out is that unlike what we may have once thought or been told, aging is NOT what causes the loss of muscle mass or connective tissue. Instead, the loss of connective tissue and muscle mass is what causes aging! EUREKA!

As a refresher, the reason why connective tissue is important is because it connects, supports, binds, or separates all other tissues. And, muscles are necessary because muscles are the only tissue in the body that have the ability to contract and therefore move the other parts of the body. The muscular system’s second function is the maintenance of posture and body composition. Healthy connective tissue and muscle mass is what keeps us moving and physically thriving.

Next, as it relates to mental aging, emotional balance, memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression–neuroplasticity is the key. According to Dr. David Hellerstein in Psychology Today, neuroplasticity is the ongoing remodeling of brain structure (or the re-wiring of our brain map) and function that occurs throughout life. And, our day to day behavior and activity can have measurable effects on brain structure, function and health.

The key ingredient to healthy connective tissue is daily stretching and movement in every and all directions. The main ingredient for having muscle mass is strength, body weight and resistance training; and the primary ingredient for neuroplasticity is becoming an “expert beginner” and striving to participate in new movements and new experiences every day. As Bo reminded us, “The body and brain do not learn and grow from repetitive movement. Instead, they learn and grow from new experiences.” Therefore, the more we participate in life as a novice, feel incompetent and even engage in awkward and uncomfortable experiences, the healthier we are mentally and physically. BRILLIANT!

So, why is this the best and most exciting news ever?! You can access all of this goodness through iGnite! As it relates to our summer theme of staying energized, renewed and balanced, when constantly re-wiring and expanding our brain map by means of being a beginner and trying new things, the scientific proven outcome is that we are energized and experience a boost in mood. Therefore, our emotional capacity is expanded and our spirit stays uplifted!

With July 1st only a few days away, the timing of our fun summer contest to Give It a Try In July, could not be more perfect. Throughout the entire month of July, we encourage you to try all of our 28 weekly classes led by our passionate, talented and amazing Leaders. This is the ideal opportunity to re-wire your brain and body map by mixing up your exercise routine, which includes driving to new areas of town, iGniting with new members and creating new relationships.

There has never been a better time to stretch beyond your comfort zones and get good at becoming a beginner. After all, it’s in the spirit of anti-aging and health, which is TOTALLY WORTH IT!


Action Item:
Try one new thing this week.


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The #gratefulgram Challenge

Join us in our November #gratefulgram challenge!  Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter or your social media outlet(s) of choice with the hastag #gratefulgram and tagging iGnite's social media profile. For participating, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for!

Join us in our November #gratefulgram challenge! Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook,Twitter or your social media outlet(s) of choice with the hashtag #gratefulgram and tagging iGnite’s social media profile. For participating, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for!

“Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.”
-Barry Neil Kaufman

Point to Ponder:
Are there things around you can be more grateful for that you might normally take for granted?

Do you know that there are only seven and a half weeks — that’s seven Saturdays and fifty-two days — until Christmas? (and I included both Thanksgiving day and Christmas Eve). So, take those days away and realistically we only have fifty days until Christmas. How does that make you feel? If you’re like me, it doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies that it should. Instead, it makes me tense up and think about how I turn into a consumer zombie and spend way too much money on unnecessary things, which in turn gives me the creepy crawlies. But wait, all of this is avoidable, right? Absolutely! I’m going to do it different this year and it’s going to start now, by counting down the days to Thanksgiving — which is actually my favorite holiday (besides Daylight Savings Time when we gain an hour of sleep…technically not a holiday, but I LOVE it!).

What I love so much about Thanksgiving is that it’s simple. Granted, I’ve never had to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, so that’s easy for me to say, but Thanksgiving for my family revolves around the 3 F’s: family, food, and football. We don’t have to travel far, there’s no gift giving, and we just spend time with one another. And, more simple than the Thanksgiving holiday is how our life can make a 180 degree turn for the better when we take the time each day to recognize and show appreciation towards one thing that we are grateful for.

In an interesting article in Psychology Today called “The Grateful Brain“, Dr. Alex Korb sites four scientific studies proving that expressing and showing gratitude towards anything activates brain regions associated with the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. Fascinatingly, “once you start recognizing the things you are grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for.” And, even more extraordinary, “in a study from the National Institute of Health, researchers examined blood flow in various brain regions while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude (ZAHN etal, 2009). They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels. Dr. Korb states that this brain activity evidence makes it clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects from increased exercise, and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains.

There’s no denying that gratitude is a life-improving game changer, which is why I am proposing you join iGnite in our #gratefulgram challenge during the month of November. Starting today and throughout the month of November, I invite you to join me in taking photos (each day if possible) of the things you are grateful for and posting them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or your social media outlet/outlets of choice with the hastag #gratefulgram and also tagging iGnite’s social media profile. I encourage you to not over-think what you are grateful for. You having gratitude for your car starting in the morning is equally as great and wonderful as posting a photo of your family. According to Dr. Alex Korb, gratitude is gratitude and regardless of what you have gratitude for, it all counts. You can check out my Instagram account and Facebook profile to get a visual of how simple it can be. And, for those of you who participate, you will be entered into a prize drawing for iGnite to donate $50 in your name to the charity or non-profit you are most grateful for (just be sure and tag iGnite and #gratefulgram to enter)!

Above is a picture I took while attending last Friday’s sunrise Core & Stretch on the Texas Rowing Center’s dock, for which I was and continue to be grateful for. What I love about being able to capture our blessings is that they make us more aware of how abundantly blessed we really are and in turn improves our overall quality of life. And overt gratitude has the opportunity to improve the overall quality of someone else’s life! Gratitude changes everything and that’s the warm fuzzies I’m talking about!

Action Item:
Watch this week’s inspiring video (below), and throughout the month of November take one picture each day of something you are grateful for and post it on your social media outlet/outlets of choice.

I know, I know. It’s another Oprah video, but I promise it’s totally relevant. We need to just make Oprah an honorary member 🙂 She’s sooo iGnite!

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