Gratitude is the gateway drug to happiness
The words came to me when I had been practicing gratitude regularly for a few months. There was nothing special that had changed in my life, but everything felt different, because I had put on new glasses. The glasses of gratitude. I chose to focus on everything that actually worked in my life instead of letting my negativity bias take over too much.
I held a workshop on the theme of gratitude the other day and was myself reminded of what an incredibly powerful tool it is for a more happy life. I had started taking my gratitude for granted, as if it would always be there, automatically. But unfortunately, that’s not how it works. We all have a negativity bias, a tendency to look for problems and dangers in all situations, instead of focusing on everything that actually works. It was incredibly good to have thousands of years ago, when we needed it to keep us, and our tribe, alive.
Most of us are no longer exposed to the dangers of life on a daily basis and actually have a fairly safe life, where we could relax more and enjoy our lives. But to get there, we need to rebuild some nerve pathways in our own brains, to actively choose what we want our brains to pay attention to. For me, gratitude is one of the most powerful tools for doing just that reprogramming, but it requires a little discipline on my part, not just a general intention to “be more grateful.”
With a daily gratitude practice, it becomes more and more natural over time, but just like with all muscles, the gratitude muscle also needs regular training. We simply become good at what we practice and maintain over time. No time is better than right now, to start a new habit, so here are some of my favorite practices, for a little gratitude reprogramming, so that you can experience the difference it can make in your life.
- Go on a gratitude walk and pay attention to everything you have to be grateful for with your body, your surroundings or your life in general
- Start and end each day by saying THANK YOU out loud with one hand on your heart, let a smile rest on your lips
- “Prime your gratitude” – get your brain used to thinking about what you’re grateful for every time you go up the stairs / brush your teeth / take a lift / shower / go into a certain room / make the bed
- Create a gratitude jar where you write down something you’re grateful for every day on a piece of paper / save a memory and put it in your gratitude jar. Go back to your gratitude jar when you need to and pick up a memory to remind yourself of everything amazing in your life. This is also a great practice to have with those you live with.
- Try the rampage of appreciation – write three full pages of things you appreciate in your life right now, feel the feeling and energy of gratitude.
- Spend a moment in gratitude for your meal and everyone / everything that has contributed to it now standing in front of you before you start eating.
- Start each meeting with the question: What are you grateful for right now / with this team / in your life / from the last week?
- When you are standing in line / waiting for the bus / are bored – list things you are grateful for being quiet for yourself.
- Write thank you letters to the people you are extra grateful for in your life or from your past and tell them what they mean / have meant to you. If possible, read it out to them and hand it over in person.
And if you want to try the most classic of gratitude exercises, the one that has been researched the most, namely the gratitude diary, I would like to give you three tips, which also work well with the other tips above.
1. Vary. Instead of raving about the same thing over and over again, pay attention to new things every day. This does not mean that you are not grateful for what comes to you first when you think of gratitude, but the muscle is strengthened more when you actually need to think and don’t go on autopilot. And there is always more.
2. Specify. Try to be as specific as possible in your gratitude. Instead of; I ‘m so grateful for my family, my home, my health, what exactly are you grateful for and why? Who in your family are you extra grateful for today and why? What in your home do you feel extra appreciation for and why? What about your body or your health gives you extra joy right now?
3. Feel. This will probably come automatically when you do the first two. Because when you need to think about and also specify, you will stay in the thoughts long enough for the feeling to be created. Feel it! Enjoy it. How does gratitude feel in your body? Where do you experience it? Stay a few extra seconds in the feeling of gratitude after each exercise and you will attract even more to be grateful for.
A lot of research indicates that only 21 days makes a difference, so start there. And once you have come that far, well, then you might as well keep going, right?
This is a guest post. Any opinions expressed are the writer’s own.