I have days where I don’t get to sit down and read until I’m so tired I can’t hold my eyes open.
That’s what happens when you have a baby in the house. At first, that really bothered me. I found myself getting irritated at small things. Broken sleep doesn’t help much either. The more I allowed my frustration over losing my leisure time to cloud my vision, the more I saw something to get irritable about. There was a steady shift in my awareness to notice only what got under my skin. That was making me blind to the things that could brighten my day.
Mental alarm bells went off. I started to notice what was happening. That’s how I remembered one of the most important lessons of my life.
You have the power to feel the way you want in any given moment.
It’s all about your focus. You’re brain literally restructures according to where you rest your attention.
If you’re always solving problems, worried about outcomes, stressed out, or in any other negative frame of mind than don’t be surprised when you get more of the same. You’ve decided to filter reality through a muddy lens. You will always notice something that needs fixed or isn’t right in this mindset.
Imagine two people standing outside on a summer day. One guy says, “I love this weather and all the sunshine.” The other guy replies, “I wish it wasn’t so damn hot.” The first guy is priming his brain to see the positive throughout his entire day. The second guy is priming his brain to see the negative.
The first guy will see more opportunities, experience less stress, and have an overall positive attitude. The second guy will be more likely to stew on small problems, miss opportunities, feel unlucky, and be negative in a general sense.
Which guy are you on most days?
Gratitude Causes Positive Outcomes
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
Holding negative emotions in your attention will actually prime you for a pretty bad day. The good news is that priming works both ways. It doesn’t take much to shift in a better direction. Remember, this is about your attention. You’re influenced by what you watch, what you listen to, your environment, how you react to an event, and even your daydreaming.
Gratitude is one powerful way to prime yourself for a positive mindset. Studies reveal that grateful people enjoy the following benefits:
- Higher Emotional Intelligence
- More Energy
- More Forgiving
- Increased Optimism
- Less likely to experience depression, anxiety, or loneliness.
People trained in gratitude also report better quality sleep, a deeper sense of social connection, and significantly fewer headaches as opposed to control groups.
Did you see anything you wouldn’t like on that list?
Three Good Things
It’s remarkably easy to shift your focus to the positive, and enjoy the benefits of gratitude. You just start making a list. All you need is three good things from the previous 24 hours.
This might sound too easy to you. Remember the best catch phrase from neuroscience. Neurons that fire together wire together. Empirical studies prove that making this daily list of just three good things can have a massive effect on the way your brain is wired.
This simple short exercise will get you focused the positive in your day. You’ll start to notice more opportunities for personal growth as your practice builds over time. And, since you’re focused on the positive moments in your day, that’s five minutes of pushing away all the negative junk and worries for a while. That’s a nice added bonus!
You don’t have to use earth moving moments of epic proportions to make the list. All you need to be is specific. Here’s a list from my previous 24 hours:
- It’s sunny and warm. I love the way the warmth slowly builds on my skin exposed to sunlight.
- I got a text message from my teen daughter that said, “love you 2.” That’s huge in my world!
- My youngest daughter Aislynn shot me the best smile I’ve seen yet in her seven months of life!
There’s nothing complicated about that list. Those are three specific good things that I’m grateful for over the last 24 hours.
Perhaps you find this hard. You may not feel like you have much to be grateful for. Allow me to help. Consider that you have the vision to read these words which is the same sight you take in all the beauty in the world, from mountaintops to smiles. You have the internet in order to access this site, which means you can access any knowledge from any point in history for free. You have your breath, otherwise you would be dead. You have a chance as long as you’re breathing. Those three should help get you started.
You’ll change within one month by adopting this daily practice. What you’re essentially doing is training your brain to notice more good things than negative things in your day. That will build a foundation of focus that increases your positive mindset, which increases your overall happiness, which increases your overall health.
Are you starting to see the pattern?
Make Gratitude a Habit
Good intentions to start something great isn’t always enough to make it happen. Remember that last diet you went on?
There’s no reason to leave a good thing to the winds of fate and willpower. Not in this modern era.
- Be Consistent: Pick a time and stick to it. Daily. All you need is five minutes. I know you have five minutes to spare, so don’t look at me like that. You could do this after breakfast, around lunch, or right before dinner. It helps to anchor a new routine to one that’s already ritualized. Be specific.
- Take the work out of it: This about ease of access. Keep your materials close. Use a little notepad you can carry in your pocket, or keep a journal at your desk.
- Use Technology: Set an alert on your calendar or your email as a reminder. Smart phones make this easy! If you don’t like to carry around a journal, then you can use Evernote. You’ll never have to ask for a pen again.
- Get Social Support: You should involve other people. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, taught this skill to CEO’s in Africa. He discovered when the CEO’s had a bad day at work and didn’t want to write down three good things, that their children insisted they make the list before they ate dinner. Achor also discovered that practicing this exercise with a spouse improved the couples ability to see things to be grateful for in the other.
Welcome To A Brighter World
The beauty of practicing gratitude is the shift of awareness about the world around you. It will change how you interact with people. It will change how you live. You’ll be more positive with a greater sense of happiness along with all the benefits that brings.
Can you be too positive? Sure. There is such a thing as irrational optimism. However, practicing gratitude isn’t going to make you blind to the problems around you. It’s going to help you see more positive solutions when the problems occur.
The world can use some more positive minded creative solutions.
One More Thing
I start every day with ten mindful breaths. After the tenth breath, I whisper thank you to to creative force, divine spark, and the wonders of the universe. I allow myself to feel a sense of awe that I’m even alive in this vast cosmos.
Here’s a beautiful video that carries this important message. I listen to this at least once a week.
What are you grateful for today?