Self-care and Gratitude

March 26, 2021

Opening up the world of gratitude and self-care practices feels natural to Positive Psychology and Survey Composition Literature teacher Susana Herrera. On Thursday, March 18, Herrera shared her knowledge and tips with students as the third guest speaker for the Planned Acts of Kindness mental health series.

Herrera began by leading participants through the Quick Coherence technique, which involves heart-focused breathing and activating a positive feeling. The first step is to focus one’s attention on the heart and breathe through the chest and heart slowly. Once done, Herrera challenged students to make a sincere attempt to appreciate someone or something in their lives. She had everyone send a quick email or message to someone they appreciate, leading into the idea that gratitude is a gateway to positive emotions.

According to the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center of University of California, Los Angeles, in 21 days, a person’s brain can be trained to see more positive in the world by simply writing down three statements of gratitude per day.

Further building upon the essentials of gratitude, happiness and well-being, Herrera debunked the assumption that the external world is predictive of our happiness level, citing positive psychology advocate Shawn Achor’s research from the Happiness Advantage that, “90 percent of your long-term happiness is not predicted by your external world but of the way your brain processes the world.”

Herrera mentioned the five pillars of well-being, or PERMA: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment. These pillars are what make human beings thrive, she said.

Herrera concluded the talk with a call to action: She urges individuals to “start with where you are and be grateful.” One’s brain on gratitude reduces fear and anxiety by regulating stress hormones, evokes positive thinking, wires and fires new neural connections, and enhances serotonin and dopamine levels. She emphasized the impacts of gratitude on the central nervous system, and that gratitude leads to psychological benefits (a happier you), physical benefits (a fitter you) and social benefits (a better you).

The next talk in the series led by Santa Clara County Behavioral Services Department counselor Vanessa Cornejo is scheduled for Thursday, April 8. This upcoming presentation will focus on tackling mental health with family and friends. To sign up, visit this link.

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