Sometimes it is hard getting through the day because we are in circumstances that just drag us down. The car breaks down, a wage-earner in the family loses a job, there are troubles with offspring. What’s more, all these potentially debilitating events seem to hit at the same town. Our emotions spiral out of control while negative thoughts conduct suicide bombings.
Dr. Dan Baker, director of behavioral medicine at the National Center for Preventive and Stress Medicine, writes in his book What Happy People Know, “Your mind, when focused on appreciating, has an unparalleled power to trigger physical and emotional healing.” Understanding that it is difficult in trying circumstances for people focus the mind positively, Dr. Baker has developed the “Appreciation Audit.”
Dr. Baker cites studies that show the brain cannot process both fear (one of mankind’s dominate negative emotions) and appreciation at the same time. So the Appreciation Audit, when practiced, is designed to create a shield in the brain against fear, hate and anger. He recommends a fundamental form of the Audit:
to think about something you appreciate. It’s important to spread
this exercise through the day, perhaps morning, noon and night.
To be intentional about practicing appreciation can cause what the psychologists call a perceptual shift. Things are still icky, but your response to them shifts. You begin to see opportunities in the job layoff—perhaps now you’ll have the time to pursue the career you’ve always wanted to pursue. The car breaks down—thank goodness you became aware of the problem before you took that road trip with the family. A teen’s behavior is inappropriate—but this forces you to look at some parenting habits in yourself that you’re not too happy to discover. Suddenly, you have the power over yourself to change.
Dr. Baker explains: “The Appreciation Audit is a form of focused mediation, which has been shown by innumerous studies to have a powerful impact upon the balance of the autonomic nervous system, the brain’s neurotransmitter profile, the cardiovascular profile, muscular tension, and the psyche. Its effects last long after the exercise has ended, sometimes for several hours. It reprograms the mind and memory by severing the fearful, self-reinforcing thought loops of anxiety that are inaugurated by the amygdale and perpetuated in the neocortex.”
Wow—this is pretty powerful stuff! Scripture also calls us to refocus our attention, but too few of us work to do this three times a day. The Apostle Paul writes, “And now, dear friends, let me say one more things as I close this letter to you. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me. … Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” Philippians 4:3-13, NLT
Now there’s a man who will pass an Appreciation Audit with flying colors!
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Karen Mains is currently getting ready to begin a mentor writing project involving teleconferencing. She will be offering an 8-month, twice-monthly, one-hour-each training program on writing personal memoirs. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. This program will begin in February of 2010.
Hungry Souls is also offering the new “Listen to My Life Mapping” Listening Group as well as two 3-Day Retreats of Silence for 2010.
Karen is also developing a two-day training event for those interested in becoming Silent Retreat leaders, and the Global Bag Project is developing a template for Bag Parties in a Box.
About Karen Mains:
Karen has written some 24 books (several of which were best-sellers), has a background in radio and television broadcasting, has been part of publishing teams, has taken journalism assignments around the world, is a national-prize-winning author, and is now exploring the science of Internet publishing.