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How Elimination Can Increase Gratitude


There are many ways to practice gratitude. This month we are covering several of them at Kathy Wiens Coaching. Gratitude is important for our mental and physical health. Negative, stressful aspects of our life harm our health, but taking in the good can counterbalance that.


Focusing on the negative is hard-wired in our minds. In his book, Buddha’s Brain Rick Hanson says our brains are Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. This is one way our brain tries to keep us safe. The primitive part of our brain tells us if we stay alert to danger, we’re more likely to stay alive. But consistently being on alert for threats is also damaging.


The practice I am sharing in this blog is a little different. Typically, we practice gratitude by thinking about the positive things in our life. We not only think about them, but we take it in fully. We feel the positive sensations in our body. But what if we flipped that around and imagined the thing or person wasn’t there and how that would feel? This is called mental elimination.


This isn’t an exercise to bring us down or make us sad, but a way to fully appreciate what we have. Practicing mental elimination can expand our sense of gratitude. A simple example of this is getting a drink of water. What if we didn’t have clean, drinkable water? This would affect our life. Water is something we often take for granted, but it is such an important part of our health. By pausing and thinking about what it would be like if these common things were gone, we can increase our gratitude.


This practice counterbalances the taking things for granted effect. Here’s how to carry out mental elimination: Think about something good in your life. It could be in the areas of health, education, loved ones, your home, things you’ve accomplished, possessions, or any other thing that is important and brings joy and meaning to your life.


Next, take a moment and think about how your life would be different if this was not there. How would you feel if you no longer had this person or thing in your life? What would be the impact? To expand this exercise, write about your feelings and how your life would be different.


Finally, think of the reasons you are so grateful to have this in your life. You may notice that your gratitude goes even deeper than before, and you gain even more appreciation.


Let me give a note of caution here. This process can help increase our gratitude and appreciation, but it is not meant to increase our sadness, depression, or anxiety. Be careful about how long you focus on not having this thing or person in your life. This is especially important when thinking about loved ones or beloved pets.


Because of our biological evolution, we are wired to focus on what can harm us rather than the good things we have in life. But looking at the good has many positive benefits. Using this practice of mental elimination can increase our gratitude and improve our health, both mentally and physically.

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