Our minds, of course, fall victim to negativity bias. A hard wire originally created in order to protect us from poisonous berries and dangerous animals. And while it served us well then, this is now, with a whole new landscapes of negative challenges. We have evolved and our stressors have as well. We remember “negative” events more than positive ones, hang on to the nasty things people say, put a negative feedback loop on over a tough conversation, and forget the amazing weekend we had come first thing Monday morning.
This is so ingrained that it might take a little work (or a lot) and the magic of neuroplasticity to rewire our brains. At least the work is enjoyable, and as with any new habit, the first 30 days take the most effort.
There are several ways to practice gratitude. One is to start a gratitude journal, list things that you are grateful for everyday.. You will notice there will start to be a pattern, your family, good friends, when you recognize this pattern, stretch yourself to find the less obvious, running hot water, your comfortable home… then move towards things that are not things at all.. Are you grateful that you can take a deep breath and feel the air fill your lungs? Are you grateful to be able to see the miraculous colors of fall??
A few other ideas on daily gratitude might be;
- Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
- Notice the beauty in nature each day.
- Nurture the friendships you have, good friends don't come along every day.
- Smile more often.
- Watch inspiring videos that will remind you of the good in the world. (funny cat videos kinda count)
What ever you decide, there are some amazing benefits that come from practicing gratitude on the daily.
Numerous scientific studies and research on gratitude have all yielded the same result: Gratitude increases the quality of our sleep, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthens the duration of our sleep. (1)
Decreased Pain Levels
Our first instinct is to disregard this benefit of gratitude, because it is hard to believe that something as simple as saying thank-you or reflecting on something positive can alleviate physical pain, but it’s can. In a study called Counting Blessings vs. Burdens that was done in 2003, ill patients were made to keep a gratitude journal. Sixteen percent of subjects reported reduced symptoms, and 10% of subjects reported a decrease in pain. It also showed that subjects were more willing to exercise, and were far more motivated in their recovery. (2)
When we are focused on gratitude and thankfulness it does not leave room for the negative self talk that can be so toxic to our lives. Whenever you catch yourself rehashing a terrible conversation with your boss or a negative conversation with yourself, start practicing gratitude that very second. The more we rewire, the easier it becomes to navigate away from those negative self feedback loops decreasing stress and anxiety.
Increased Energy and Vitality
There are many hypotheses supporting why exactly gratitude makes us healthier. From stronger immune systems thanks to good sleep, or healthier hearts due to less stress. Gratitude research has repeatedly shown that thankful people have higher energy levels, are more relaxed, are happier and are healthier.
Of course, it doesn’t matter if gratitude makes us healthier due to the power of positivity, or if the dopamine in our brains sets off a chain reaction that ignites the benefits of gratitude. Try it for yourself and feel the difference.. Can you imagine everyday feeling like those great “get out of town weekends”?
Take time to focus on something positive everyday. The practice has the ability to change your life. Gratitude takes practice like any other skill and Thanksgiving Day is a good time to start, but if you want to reap all the benefits, keep practicing every single blessed day.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian peps, and soon to South of the boarder. I appreciate and have gratitude for this amazing long weekend which I am spending at the beach and thank you all for reading this post!