Train Your Brain to be Happier!
"The single greatest thing you can do to to change your life today,
would be to start being grateful for what you have right now.
The more grateful you are, the more you get."
Today I wanted to share a really really simply way to shift your mindset, bring on the good vibes, and start to love your life a little deeper. All it takes is a feeling. Seriously, it doesn't get easier than this.
This week's blog is all about #GRATITUDE
In my studies of positive psychology and raising your energy, the concept of gratitude comes up over and over. Tony Robbins, Louise Hay, Jen Sincero, Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Dalai Lama -- everyone is talking about the importance of cultivating this emotional state. When multiple leaders I respect and admire are all saying the same thing, I know there is something big there! I took note and started practicing gratitude in my daily life last year and have noticed a huge shift in perspective. It is now a part of my mindset. I am grateful for my life in big and small ways all the time and I make sure to thank the things, people, and planet that have given me so many gifts.
Here's the beauty of it.
Last year, I bought the audiobook of Shawn Achor's "The Happiness Advantage" and would listen to it every time I was in my car (at the time I was photographing real estate, so I was in my car A LOT). Shawn was a Freshman Proctor and Teaching Assistant at Harvard University and specializes in the study of positive psychology and the SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS. Yes, this is actual neuroscience. In his book he talks about how we can completely rewire our brains to improve our skills, relationships, performance at work, and life in general.
And guess what. Happiness Habit Number 1? Gratitude.
Gratitude is powerful tool for increasing wellbeing in many ways.
1. Allows you to focus on a positive emotion instead of negative thoughts = elevated mood and increased optimism. By focusing on things that feel good, you increase dopamine and serotonin in the brain; neurotransmitters that trigger feelings of bliss in your brain (similar to antidepressant medication)!
2. What you focus on, grows. Similar to lifting weights to strengthen a muscle, you can strengthen neurological patterns in your brain by using positive thought. Hebb's law states "neurons that fire together, wire together", meaning repetitive patterns (or thoughts) in the brain train it how to operate. We call this habit. The more you use these specific neural pathways, the easier they come naturally. Practicing gratitude allows you to see more things to be grateful for in your daily life.
3. Studies show that groups of people who have been trained to be more grateful tend to have improved relationships, sleep patterns, physical health, and (did I say this already?), are HAPPIER!
Savour little moments.
When something that feels good happens in your life, take a moment to say thank you silently or out loud. Green lights all the way to work? Thank you universe. Someone was kind to you? Thank you universe. Found a twenty in your pocket? Thank you universe.
Start a gratitude journal.
(or add a little gratitude list in your existing planner).
Every day, write down a list of the things you're grateful for, and WHY. They can be big things (got the promotion) or little things (the fact that peanut butter exists). Any and all things that you may not otherwise take the time to thank the world for bringing into your experience. You can choose a number of items (ie. 5 things a day -- you can definitely think of five!), or keep writing until you fill the page.
I try to write my list first thing in the morning as I go about planning my day. It puts me in a positive headspace and gives me those good warm vibes. Also before bed, if I can't sleep, I'll go over a mental list in my head of things that I was grateful for that day. Feeling a sudden spark of anxiety? Gratitude list. You will feel more appreciation for what you have, open yourself up for more positive experiences and things, and feel more deeply connected with the earth as you thank it for everything that has come to you.
As you continue to do this exercise, you will find yourself spending the day looking for things to add to your list. You have wired your brain to look for pleasing things!
(And, they WILL show up)
Here are a couple items from today's list in my journal:
I AM GRATEFUL...
- For my family. Holy smokes I am so grateful for my family. My parents who crafted an incredible childhood for me and continue to be my biggest support system.
- People who are kind with no agenda. Rescuing animals, baking us cookies, holding doors, etc. just to make the world brighter.
- The internet. Answering my questions (how do pistachios grow?), and allowing me to connect with people all over the world and access information. Also, the people who share their work for FREE online providing a resource for every thing you could ever want to learn.
- Running water. Hot water. Electricity to boil water. Bodies of water. Water in general.
- Airplanes. Allowing me to travel anywhere in the world and experience cultures, food, and environmental phenomena that blows my mind and helps me to feel connected to the earth.
- My body. The greatest instrument I will ever own. That it is healthy and allows me to walk, jump, practice yoga, lift weights, hug, clap, dance...
So go for it!
Write a list right now. When you're done, read it once over and think about how good the items make you feel. Keep your heart open to more things to be grateful for!
Do this consistently for at least 21 days (I bet you can totally do 30), and enjoy the benefits of that stronger, happier brain.
Love, Light, and Gratitude,
(who I am grateful for)
SAMPLE GRATITUDE JOURNAL PAGE: