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how gratitude impacts your mind

Counting Your Blessings

As a child, do you remember being told to “count your blessings?” Maybe, back then, it wasn’t quite clear ‘why’ doing this was a good idea.  Over the past decade, a large body of research has helped us to better understand the wide ranging positive effects of ‘counting our blessings’ – for being grateful.

Practicing gratitude has been linked to improvements in:

  • physical and psychological health
  • happiness
  • mood
  • life satisfaction
  • resilience (the ability to bounce back when times are tough)
  • the quality of our relationships.

So, what is gratitude?

Gratitude is the appreciation and thankfulness of what is valuable and meaningful to us.  It can also help us to connect with something larger than ourselves, such as other people, animals, nature, or a higher power.

Put simply, the practice of gratitude provides the opportunity to re-focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t.  It is a way of re-training the brain to move away from “if only” thinking, and striving for the long-list of things we want, need and ‘must have’.

You may be familiar with some of these thoughts:

“If only I made more money”.

“If only I had a partner”.

“If only I were fitter / thinner / more muscular”.

“If only I was smarter”.

“If only I had more time”.

No matter what your version of “what if thinking is”, it generally ends in, “then I’d be happy”.

How many times have you found your mind re-cycling the seemingly convincing, “If only …fill in the blanks………, I’d be happy” thought? Maybe often.

These thoughts are rarely helpful.  Why?  Because our happiness becomes conditional on striving for something we currently don’t have. So, in the meantime, we’re generally left feeling frustrated, angry, stressed, anxious or depressed.

In contrast to “what if” thinking, gratitude focuses solely on the appreciation of what is.  Gratitude produces feelings of happiness and pleasure which, in turn, impacts our health and well-being in positive ways. It allows us to drop the constant reaching and striving, and to experience contentment in the here and now.

How does gratitude impact on the brain?

When we give or receive gratitude, our brain releases ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters called dopamine and serotonin, and we feel happy.

Through consistent gratitude practice, we develop and strengthen neural pathways in the brain.  By doing this, being grateful becomes a more automatic response to life’s challenges, and overrides the old ‘if only’ response, which often leaves us feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.

Ways to Practice Gratitude

There are a number of ways to practice gratitude:

Keep a gratitude journal.  At the end of each day write down 3 or more things you are thankful for.  When you write, for 15 or more seconds, using all of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight) bring to mind what you are grateful for.  Allow yourself to feel the pleasure of this experience.  You may be grateful for past blessings (for example, a very loving relationship with a grandparent) or present circumstances (for example, having a house to live in).

Use a gratitude jar. This practice is great for sharing what you are grateful for with others.  At the end of the day (similar to the above), on three separate pieces of paper write down three things that you are grateful for and place them in the gratitude jar.  Ask your partner, flat-mate, siblings, children or friends to do the same.  Arrange a time to get together to take turns reaching into the jar and pulling out a piece of paper and reading out what it says.  Read out what is on the paper and ask the person who wrote the note to share their feelings of gratitude.

Write a thank-you note. Often, in our busy world, we don’t take the opportunity to thank others for their impact on our lives.  Maybe that person for you is your mother or perhaps a grandparent.  Writing a thank you note is a way of acknowledging the importance of that person to you.  You could send the letter or you could read the letter to the person you are grateful for.

Thank someone mentally. If writing a letter or a note isn’t your thing, mentally thank the individual you are grateful for.

Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves re-orientating focus to the present.

More specifically, gratitude meditation is a technique that focuses on the things about ourselves, others, and other things (for example, nature, pets etc.) we are truly grateful for.

“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

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Lauren Chapman

Lauren is an experienced Clinical Psychologist who has been practicing across public mental health and private practice roles for over ten years. She completed her Master of Clinical Psychology at Deakin University and is a Board Approved Supervisor with the Psychology Board of Australia, and a member of the Australian Psychological Society.

Lauren’s approach is warm, empathic, and collaborative, drawing from a range of evidence-based therapeutic models such as Schema Therapy, CBT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy.

Lauren works with adults aged 17 and over across a range of mental health issues including:

Hilary Austin

Hilary is a highly experienced Psychotherapist and Mental Health Social Worker. She has worked in acute mental health, educational and community settings.

Hilary has a depth of experience working with adults & adolescents facing acute and complex mental health difficulties.  She has a keen interest in psychoanalysis and approaches this with deep value of helping in pragmatic and sensible ways.  Hilary will work closely with you to identify your goals for change, and to navigate the path. Hilary brings warmth and pragmatism to her work, which is of immense value in helping her clients to feel comfortable and understood.

Key Interest Areas

Dr. Josie Sinni

Josie is a highly experienced member of the Laburnum Psychology team, bringing fourteen years of experience to her work.  Josie holds a Doctoral degree in Clinical Neuropsychology and has worked both as a neuropsychologist and a generalist psychologist. In her generalist work, Josie works with clients who experience anxiety disorders, mood disorders, stress, adjustment issues, and low self-confidence.  Josie values building strong rapport with her clients and will work with you to identify meaningful goals and work toward building positive change in your life.  Josie is conscientious to base her interventions in evidence-based therapeutic frameworks, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Key Interest Areas

Dr Carissa Kuswanto

Carissa holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Having achieved a high degree of academic training and clinical research, she now focusses her efforts upon applying these learnings in her work as a psychologist. Carissa’s true strengths as a therapist lie in her empathy, authenticity, and compassion, as well as her genuine curiousity in people. Carissa aims to establish a safe space when engaging in therapy. She loves to learn and she deeply values sharing her learnings in practical and real-world ways, tailoring and blending evidence-based therapy approaches for each unique individual. Carissa works across all age ranges, including adults, older adults, adolescents and children. Carissa also speaks fluent English and Bahasa Indonesia.

Special Interest Areas:

Tim McCorriston

Tim is a registered clinical and counselling psychologist and one of the Practice Principals at Laburnum Psychology.  Tim has over twenty years experience as a psychologist, working primarily with clients, as well as supervising other psychologists. Tim places high value on creating a comfortable environment for people to explore change.  Tim assists people to become conscious of their patterns, identify their change goals, and find practical and relatable ways to intentionally work toward these goals.  Tim has an interest in the neurology of change.  He assists people to understand, from a neurological perspective, the ways that they can intentionally drive and practice their own change processes.  From this base, Tim works with his clients to better understand themselves, manage difficult situations, and improve sense of peace, wellbeing and contentment in their lives.

Key Interest Areas

Kylie Allen

Kylie is a registered clinical psychologist with over twenty years of experience.  She is one of the two Practice Principals at Laburnum Psychology.  Kylie has worked in private practice for the past fourteen years.  She brings extensive experience in working with children, adolescents and adults.  Kylie will tailor an approach to therapy specifically for your set of circumstances and personality, so that you can become your best self.  Kylie helps her clients to achieve a stronger and more conscious sense of self, so they can live with greater alignment to their core values and life goals.  Kylie works with many people to help them understand the impacts of early life experiences, be that trauma or deprivation, or more subtle influences.  Kylie assists her clients to restructure unhelpful emotional and behavioural patters so that they can avert ongoing negative patters in life, and find their way to a greater sense of peace and wellbeing, and more positive relationships.

Key Interest Areas

Larissa King

Larissa is a deeply experience psychologist, with over twenty years counselling experience. Larissa has been with Laburnum Psychology for over ten years.  She brings a breadth of experience to her clinical work.  Larissa’s approach is to develop a safe, warm and trusting relationship and to use an eclectic range of evidence-based psychological approaches matched to each individual’s needs. Larissa has worked in a range of counselling settings including Gambler’s Help, youth sexual assault counselling and generalist counselling.

Key Interest Areas

Elizabeth Charalambakis

Like all of our psychologists, Elizabeth has been recruited based on the individual strengths that she brings to her counselling work, and to our team. Elizabeth works across a wide age range. She works with young people, aged sixteen and above, but also brings a strong knowledge around active aging principles. She is interested in working with a broad range of presenting mental health issues. Elizabeth approaches her work with excellent relational skills and a strong capacity for empathy and rapport. From this excellent base, Elizabeth will draw upon her tool kit of evidence based techniques to assist her clients toward positive change.

Key Interest Areas:

Fina Triany

Fina is a Clinical Psychologist who brings a depth of experience working across a very broad range of life issues and clinical presentations.  Fina is fluent in both English and Indonesian.  Fina always aims to work collaboratively with clients, drawing on their own unique strengths and capacities to achieve change, and find greater peace and contentment in their lives.

Key Interest Areas:

Latha Iyer

Latha has completed a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology.  She approaches her work with a strong sense of compassion and a desire to understand the uniqueness of each individual client and the situations they face.  Latha utilizes a strong blend of interpersonal skills, empathy and technical ability.  Latha’s warm and personable manner helps her clients to feel at ease in their sessions with her.

Key Interest Areas

Mili Vukalo

Mili has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology. She has experience working and volunteering across a range of settings, including educational institutions (secondary and tertiary counselling environments).  Mili brings a strong sense of peace and calmness to her work, as well as her strengths in compassion.  She has an excellent capacity to help clients feel safe and at ease in exploring challenging areas of their lives.

Key Interests Areas

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Grief and loss
  • Academic difficulty
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Life adjustment

Simone Ray

Simone has a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, and is currently completing her PhD, studying personality and schemas.  Simone is a warm and empathic psychologist who aims to create a safe and authentic environment for her clients.  Simone works to identify and draw upon her clients own strengths, so that together they can develop effective strategies for change.  Simone has worked in university clinics, schools, community mental health (headspace and drug and alcohol), as well as custodial settings.  She works with a breadth of clients across the lifespan and from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds.  Simone works with individuals and groups, and is confident to work across a wide range of mental health concerns.

Key Interest Areas

Sivan Hadas

Sivan is a Clinical Psychologist who brings vast and varied experience to her work.  She has a high level of professional experience and expertise.  Sivan builds very strong rapport with her clients.  She works with integrity and authenticity, and creates a very secure and calming space in which to conduct her sessions.  Sivan possesses great strengths in case conceptualization and formulation.  She works with adults and adolescents, and is fluent in English and Hebrew.

Key Interest Areas

Emma Gillespie

Emma approaches her work with great strengths in empathy and compassion. Prior to her work in psychology, she has worked and volunteered all around the world, with vulnerable children and communities, and people in sanctuaries, orphanages and primary schools across Africa, India, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica. Emma has worked with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, socio-economic groups, and across all ages. She aspires to create a safe space for individuals to explore their story, and with the goal of identifying practical skills and strategies to move towards their goals and find healing, change and personal growth.

Key Interest Areas