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Power of Pause - Gratitude

It’s funny, how at the end of the day, when someone asks you how your day has been, that there is a tendency to remember the rough and tough parts of the day and maybe throw in a little catastrophising too. The brain is generally hardwired for the negative, to spot threats to protect itself, and this is probably why we spot the negative more easily that the positive. The magnetism to the negative though is an unhelpful approach that can pull us down. So, understanding the power of pausing, in gratitude, is a powerful energiser. Gratitude, is the third of six powers of pause that can help us REGAIN energy and focus when leading ourselves and others.

R - Reflection - Take time to reflect and journal about yourself or the situation to plan improvement

E - Energise - Use exercise, rest or mindfulness to recharge your mind, body & spirit

G - Gratitude – Use a rhythm of thankfulness to reduce stress & gain perspective

A - Awe - Take time to reflect on the moment or nature and use awe to gain perspective

I - Inspire - Take time to read, watch or listen to replenish your thinking, knowledge and wisdom

N - Now – Use the power of pausing to notice your senses, your body, to be in the moment, the present to replenish the mind

Power to bring balance

In 1979, Ian Dury & the Blockheads released the song, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3’. I’ve no idea what happened to part 1 & 2, but part 3 was a strange list of seemingly unlinked items that could be reasons to be cheerful, sung along to a catchy tune. The 1970s, for those of us old enough to remember, had some bizarre music and this track would certainly rank in there. But, strangely enough, the song hits a particularly accurate note on the power of cheerfulness and gratitude. A quick glance at the list of things on Ian Dury’s list, reveals people, the arts, places, experiences, things that made him laugh, memories. We may not relate to his particular reasons to be cheerful but we can quickly think of our equivalent. When you stop to weigh up the positives, the things to be thankful for, it brings back balance. It allows us to consider what we have achieved, do have in our life and therefore successes. This can balance the negatives from the day to gain perspective. In my most challenging moment, when my previous job suddenly ended, it was this daily process of reminding myself of friends, family, what I did have, that helped me keep balance.

Science behind it

In 2007, R. A. Emmons released his book Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier. This was based on the original study by Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. in 2003, entitled Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84: 377-89. In this study, they found that thankfulness, releases a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S). The effect of this hormone, counteracted the stress hormone Cortisol. With lower cortisol, this then enables us to think more creatively and problem solve as the negative impact of cortisol is reduced.

Practise the Pause

Thankfulness, like any way of thinking, is like a muscle that needs developing. Proactively and regularly working some pause for gratitude into your daily routine means that new habits are formed. This means that this way of thinking has neural pathways are more readily available when you are under stress too.

  • How about starting and ending the day with thinking of ten things to be thankful for?

  • How about starting some problem solving by thinking of the WWW (what is working well) before looking for the list of things that are not?

  • How about starting meetings with a WWW time, reviewing what is working well, before looking at the challenges. This helps you not 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' and enables you to build on the good.

  • When coaching someone, and reviewing the current reality, try to guide them to think about things that are working or have worked in the past in similar circumstances.

Sometimes, we can describe things as 'an absolute nightmare'. In coaching terms, this is known as a nominalisation, something the person thinks they know what it means, but it could mean many things to others listening. Reflecting back to them the word, asking them to unpack it, allows them to really unpick what actually is the nightmare. Then asking for a pause moment, to reflect on whether there are any things, in the midst of their nightmare, that is a positive, something to anchor the improvement from the nightmare on, can be a very powerful anchor point. In my work over the years with teachers, looking at challenging behaviours, it is taking those pause moments of gratitude on the small things that are working that can give footholds to improvement. Alongside the joy of recognising that some things are actually working. The same applies to any field that you may work in. The power of pause for gratitude is the foundation for improvement.

Next steps

This power of pause, has the ability to bring a little joy into the thinking process. It has the power to see success, to reduce stress cortisol and the power to bring balance. That sounds like a good reason to pause to me! Maybe give it a try!

Do contact me directly at if you are finding it particularly challenging and would like some coaching to help you evaluate the situation, and would like help finding the power of pause in gratitude, then please contact me


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