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what you look for” I meant it. Just simply deciding each day to look for the good in my life, and express gratitude for it, has meant that my life has become filled with good. The more I look for good things in my life the more my brain becomes alert to good things, scans for good things, and finds good things. It is hard to be depressed when there is so much good around. Previously my brain was wired to scan for bad, and it was exceptionally good at finding it.

Named my game Once I understood how my own thoughts could play a part in depression I realised that I was often making the choice to replay certain things for a variety of self-serving reasons.

Victim. First, I had developed a victim mentality – starring in a victim role comes easily to me and I have learned to become more aware of it, avoiding it as often as possible. Bad stuff happens to everyone and it is my choice if I let myself play the victim. Gratitude teaches me that I am not a victim, but the undeserving recipient of so much beauty and grace.

Sympathy. Another game I was playing was the sympathy game – if you are

depressed people treat you kindly and give you sympathy – yay! Gratitude is teaching me to give empathy to others and stop making myself the centre of my own, and everyone else’s, attention. I also began to glimpse how draining on everyone my misery was – not a pretty sight. I also secretly enjoyed knowing that

I did not have to be strong and self- controlled if I was rolling in my own misery. Everyone understands that when you are miserable it’s hard to be strong and so there is tolerance for much self- indulgent behaviour.

Gratitude is an instantly rewarding practice that gave me positive emotions that transitioned me to a place where I was stronger emotionally and able to be a little more self-controlled. My own experience tells me that

gratitude is a powerful antidote to depression. Many people I talk to feel the same way. Feeling grateful brings emotions of awe, wonder, happiness and joy, to name a few, and those emotions shove depression aside. As I have researched the subject of

gratitude I have come across loads of scientific studies that back up my own experience regarding depression. I have looked a little at depression research too, and more and more there is an

understanding that our own thoughts have a huge role in this affliction. Certainly the widespread acceptance that depression is a chemical imbalance or a disease is under considerable review among many scientists and psychologists at the moment. Recently I was privileged to interview

Dr John Medina, author of the NY Times bestseller ‘Brain Rules’, and I was struck by his simple summing up of how our brains work: “Basically when we engage in pro-social behaviour (outward, other- oriented focus) then our brains spiral upward to happiness. When we engage in anti-social behaviour (inward, self- oriented, selfish) then our brains spiral down into depression.” This brings me to my other depression-

killing tip: Random acts of kindness – if all else fails for me, and I find myself getting a little down, I just go out and do secret acts of kindness for strangers and friends. Works every time.

Toni is a storyteller, entrepreneur, filmmaker and dealer of the ‘wonder drug’ gratitude. Her unique gratitude training programs take her around the world and into companies like BHP Billiton, Commbank and Allianz. In 2006 Toni was the subject of an ABC episode of Australian Story.

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  com/gratitude-lifeclass    march 2014 17

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