Dr Eddie Murphy: A simple 'thank you' is so powerful
Thank you: two words that are so powerful. Said genuinely they mean so much. They are the verbal glue that show the importance of many key psychological concepts, namely community, connection, and gratitude.
Having support via family, friends and community means that in times of need or crisis you can turn to these people to give you help and assistance. It's all about quality relationships. These relationships serve to enhance our quality of life and provide a buffer against adverse life events - illness, bereavements, loss, etc. In the world of psychology we call this social support and it can take different forms:
• Emotional support refers to the actions people take to make someone else feel cared for.
• Practical support refers to things like money, or housekeeping. For example, think of all the Irish mammies washing their children's clothes over the weekend (Stop, you are de-skilling them!)
• Informational support means providing information to help someone.
What we know from over a century of psychological research is that having closeness, connection and community, our lives and others' lives are enriched and there are massive physical and psychological health benefits. When we are connected and get support, whether from a group - such as a book club, prayer group, GAA club - or valued individual, it reduces toxic stress and its negative consequences.
Indeed, social support is now proven to be a literal life-saver. Studies show that people who are supported by close relationships with friends, family, church, work, or other support groups are less vulnerable to ill health and premature death. Individuals afflicted with leukaemia or heart disease have higher survival rates if they have extensive social support. There is also a strong tie between social support and measures of wellbeing. Those who have close personal relationships cope better with various stressors, including bereavement, job loss and illness.
This brings me to a key question: how are you in terms of social support - connections to family, friends and social networks? Could this be something that you could enhance? One of the ways I have seen this in action is on two wheels in the Cycle Against Suicide (April 24 to May 7, 2016) cycle where, shoulder to shoulder, people are cycling at a steady safe pace that allows for talking, fun and community.
Linked to 'Thank You' is gratitude. Now this can be towards yourself and others. The old advice to 'count your blessings' is well founded. Gratitude is a powerful emotion, and studies also have shown it to be very strongly linked to our wellbeing. It's also crucial to mindfulness, since, by definition, when you are grateful you are mindful: you are thinking about what's good in your life right now, not about what you didn't get or don't yet have or will never have.
When grateful, we are mindful, because we are open to possibilities, positivity and optimism. Imagine being grateful as similar to the process of developing a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.
Five tasks to strengthen your gratitude muscle
1 Before going to sleep, think about three good things that you are grateful for today. This is a lovely exercise to do with children.
2 Say thank you regularly and genuinely.
3 Do something to say thanks: make someone a cuppa, mow the grass.
4 Be grateful for small things: friendships, nature, flowers, fresh air, water...
5 Now think of something you are not so grateful for - for example, having to go to work. Take two minutes to write down all the positive things about your job. You might include the salary, the friendships, the routine, the holidays it pays for, etc. Overcome your natural resistance to your attitude towards work. Commit to doing this each day for a week, focusing on a different area of your life every time. Eventually you will become more grateful. Don't keep it all to yourself, express your gratefulness to others. A thank you goes a long way. Thank you for your great response to my column!