Have you ever been in a situation where life slaps you in the face, or perhaps you’ve been dealing with a circumstance that just won’t go away no matter how hard you try to clear a path out? Life can seriously be a bitch some times! Have you ever had some one the suggestion that you find something to be grateful for. It usually it will look something like this;
You loose your job, “Well at least you have your health”
Your relationship ends, “You have so many people who love you”
Your phone is ringing off the hook with solicitors, “Hey you live in a free country don’t you”. (Ok that one is a real issue for me right now. One thing they don’t tell you when you start a blog, you get phone calls from places you never knew existed.)
When your life seems to be falling down around you it is so hard to find yourself in a grateful frame of mind. The thing is though, that is EXACTLY the time when you need it the most! There are studies that have proven that practicing the simple act of gratitude can reprogram your brain and it only takes a few weeks to start seeing results. Sounds a bit woo woo right? The reality is that practicing gratitude can increase willpower, improve your outlook on life, increase resiliency to stress and decrease anxiety. The reprogramming effect is not only profound but it has longevity. There was a study done by the University of Indiana proving these results and it is a very simple practice to maintain. Need further encouragement? This scientific study showed that just the act of simply asking yourself what you are grateful for will impact your brain in a positive way by increasing the Serotonin and Dopamine production which effects the part of our brain that allows us to feel blissful. Now that is a super power! Gratitude is nature’s anti depressant! It’s easy, free and accessible to everyone without a prescription. So why is it so hard for people to practice this? Well there are a number of reasons for this, here were mine when I started practicing; it can be uncomfortable, It felt like I was forcing an unnatural thought process or pretending and at times it can even feel a bit hokey. There were times where life was kicking my ass and I felt less than enthusiastic about finding something to be grateful for. The good news is that with time gratitude began to feel as natural as breathing.
So where do you start? Here are a few exercises you can try that will increase your feelings of joy and bliss through gratitude;
- Say thank you every morning before getting out of bed. It really doesn’t matter who or what you are thanking, the act of being thankful will increase those warm fuzzies.
- Keep a gratitude journal; Ok this is a standard one, but there is a reason for that. It works! Typically, first thing in the morning you would write down three things you are grateful for. However, I feel that there is never a bad time for gratitude so I like to jot down things, people, situation , etc., that I’m are grateful for when the inspiration hits me. Aim for three to four a day. If you find you haven’t journaled your quota by the end of the day sit down and ask yourself what you are grateful for. I like this approach because it keeps gratitude on the forefront of my brain.
- Call or approach someone with the simple intent of thanking them. Bonus points for calling or approaching someone with whom your relationship needs work.
- Get out in nature and pay attention to its beauty. Be thankful that you are there and able to experience it in the way that is real for you. Some relate more to the sounds of nature, others smells or sights. How you experience it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you do. Appreciation is a form of gratitude.
- Eat your favourite food and truly savour it, appreciate it’s complexities and subtleties. Mouth feel and smell enhances your appreciation.
These simple acts, if practiced consistently can do wonders for your mood, frame of mind and resiliency to stress. If you want a few more ideas, here is a great article I found.
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Neuroscience of gratitude