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Get G.L.A.D. and Scrub Away Rumination and Anxiety

A simple practice overcomes negativity and fear, and gets you into your life.

Do you often get lost in mind wandering? Is your mind drawn to unpleasant memories or thoughts more often than you would like? According to research, most of us mind-wander about 50 percent of the time. The Harvard psychologists who conducted this research write, "A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."

The emotional cost, sadly, is that people are most often unhappy when their minds are wandering. Like it or not, this tendency to not be present seems to be the brain's default mode of operating. Naturally, there are good survival reasons for being able to anticipate future scenarios or to learn from past ones. However, when unproductive mental time travel becomes habitual, it can keep us from fully enjoying and participating in life.

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Why be sad when you can be G.L.A.D.?
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So if people are most unhappy when they are mind traveling, when were they the happiest? There were three basic times when subjects reported themselves as most happy: during exercising, during sex, and when directly engaged in face-to-face conversation. In other words, times wen they were more steeped the body and more present in relationships.

This can really be seen as participating fully in life, in the here and now, whether you're walking and noticing nature, having a meal with a friend, or just noticing this next breath. Take a long, deep breath right now, exhaling slowly: You just got into the body! But let's take this to a new level that engages both mind and body.

G.L.A.D. to Increase Happiness and Reduce Mind-Wandering

My last post explored The Single Word That Stops Negative Self-Talk. That single word was gratitude and that post summarizes some of the gratitude research. Knowing the research behind gratitude, I wanted to develop a more comprehensive means of getting people out of negative mind-wandering that extended beyond gratitude. That's how I developed the G.L.A.D. Technique, or G.L.A.D. Daily Snapshot practice. This tool and how to apply it is explained below. (It is also available in my workbooks The Mindfulness Toolbox and 101 Mindful Ways to Build Resilience.)

The G.L.A.D. practice is currently being used in many ways. People have written to share with me how they use it with their families at dinnertime. An educator wrote me to say he had included it in his graduate-level counseling class. There is even a minister who based a sermon on G.L.A.D. Personally, I've been very glad to see how it's helped people shift awareness.

G.L.A.D. Daily Snapshot

Let's talk a look at what each letter in this practice stands for. Each day, you can notice one thing that connects to each of these letters:

  • G: Gratitude. What one thing are you grateful for today?

Keep in mind that there are 4 basic kinds of gratitude:

1) Basic Gratitude such as water, food, shelter, clothing, etc., things without which life would be impossible or cause great suffering.

2) Personal Gratitude such as having a place to live, a job, transportation, and other amenities in your life.

3) Relational Gratitude such as noticing the network of persons, resources, and other things that make life meaningful and richer.

4) Paradoxical Gratitude such as seeing the silver lining for those things you wish you didn't have in your life.

  • L: Learning. What one thing did you learn today?

Consider these 3 ways to think about learning:

1) Did you learn something new about another person?

2) What new thing did you learn about yourself?

3) What one new thing did you learn today—knowing that it's fun to be curious and learn.

  • A: Accomplishment. What one thing did you accomplish today?

Too often, we think about accomplishments as long-term, major life goals. In truth, we need to acknowledge the small accomplishments that make a difference every day, such as getting proper nutrition (to help our brain work effectively), getting enough sleep, taking care of our physical and emotional needs, etc. By the way, I've long said that getting dressed in the morning is highly underrated; it's an accomplishment that requires forethought, planning, and action. So give yourself credit for that.

  • D—Delight. What one thing brought you a sense of delight today?

This is the affective, feeling part of the G.L.A.D. Daily Snapshot. Think of this as something that made you smile, something of beauty that you saw, something that made you laugh, or something that brought you a feeling of joy or hope for yourself and the world.

Making G.L.A.D. Effective

To enhance your G.L.A.D. practice, share it with others. This gives you that engaged face-to-face time with others that promotes happiness. And you may find others who can share their G.L.A.D. stories with you.

In fact, let me end this post with a story of a client struggling with acute depression. I thought the G.L.A.D. practice would help him distance from rumination and steep him in present-moment awareness. When he next came to see me, he shared his experience, and when he got to delight, he said, "I heard a bird chirping, and that reminded me of springtime and it gave me hope."

May the power of each small moment be joyful and affirming as you explore G.L.A.D. in your life.