At this time of year, it's all-too-easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of pre-Christmas deadlines, shopping, social events, and general busy-ness. Sometimes, our brains need a reminder to take a few moments and be mindful.
When we pay attention to our emotions and surroundings, and we appreciate what we have, we are more likely to realise the full worth of something or someone. And, when we express gratitude to another person, both people experience more positive emotions as feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine are released in our brains and bodies. This is one of the best gifts we can give!
We often speak about the power of positive emotions and their broadening and building effect in four key areas - social, intellectual, physical and psychological (Fredrickson, 1998). Thanking others and showing kindness also helps us to connect and build trust - it helps us appreciate differences and create a sense of camaraderie and belonging.
Gratitude, hope and kindness feels so good!
How are you feeling right now? At The Oranges Toolkit, we are pleased to feel the collective sense of hope and optimism growing as we all experience life with more freedoms and look forward to the future.
One of the most rewarding opportunities we all have right now is the option to connect with ourselves and others in meaningful ways. Reaching out to others, seeing people face-to-face, sharing incidental conversations and building emotional connection creates powerful positive emotions. Whether you have a tendency towards extroversion or introversion - the evidence suggests numerous benefits of building emotional connections with yourself and others.
Gratitude helps us grow and cope with challenges
Researchers also associate gratitude with psychological growth and a coping style known as positive reinterpretation. When people with high levels of appreciation experience significant life changes, like being diagnosed with cancer, they are more likely to find meaning and growth opportunities from the experience, and feel gratitude for their recovery. Continued appreciation of positive changes - a new romance, dream job or achieving a goal - counteracts the natural tendency of humans to adapt and revert to previous levels of happiness within a year.
Rather than taking positive events and successes for granted, continuing to remind ourselves why they made us feel good in the first place makes us happier for longer. This also shows why gratitude is one of the most powerful antidotes to negative emotions and depression.
At this time of year, some people do feel more lonely or experience more negative emotions. This is yet another reason why kindness and connection is such a wonderful gift to give.
There are so many ways to be kind and build connection
There is a plethora of ways to be kind, connect with others and practise gratitude at work, home, and in our broader community. And, it doesn't need to cost a thing! It could be as simple as writing a gratitude letter, sharing a compliment, or even asking a meaningful question.
Throughout Mental Health Month in October, The Oranges Toolkit team pondered the power of a question, and shared some of their favourite questions to ask yourself or others to build wellbeing and connection. Showing curiosity towards yourself and others can improve connection and wellbeing.
Also to support connection and wellbeing, we recently created our Connection Cards which feature 52 conversation starter questions (one on each card). These question cards are perfect if you want to kick-off a meeting with some fun therapy or get to know someone a little better. (They also make a meaningful gift!)
We need reminders to be mindful!
During our recent free event series of Friday Firesides for Mental Health Month, we were joined by experienced business leaders to explore how they build wellbeing, and gained a wealth of great insights and practical ideas (You can catch up on the recordings here). One point from Jim Frith of McConnell Dowell Constructors was on the importance of quality time. Being mindful and present in what you're doing is so powerful in every setting - and the science backs this up. However, sometimes, we all need reminders to direct our attention to apply the science and principles of positive wellbeing. That's where tools like daily reminders and rituals can help.
Our gift to you
As we approach Christmas and the 'silly season', in the spirit of giving, we're offering everyone a complimentary calendar to remind us all to be kind to ourselves, peers, family and neighbours. Our 28 days of Connection Calendar can be used any time of year - but we encourage you to start now. You may like to save this as a temporary desktop background or screensaver, or print it out to stick on a wall or fridge, share it with your colleagues, and do these simple daily acts of kindness and connection. Our wish is for our entire community to experience the many benefits of kindness, gratitude and connection this season and beyond!
Download the calendar below, and get in touch if you'd like to connect with us too.