I could begin this entry with a preface a mile long about how the changes I’ve adopted in my life have changed me. Suffice to say – I am very grateful.
I thought about this last night as I reflected on my journey over the past year, and what I knew to be absolutely true was that the change had been gradual – conscientious and directed, but gradual. And a resultant product of that graduality is the compound effect these habits and ways of thinking have had on each other. My wellbeing today is a very holistic product of the sum of my habits – so much so that I’m working to methodically fine tune my habits of routine over the coming weeks (yes, there is a spreadsheet), and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for my inner and outer life. Feelsgoodman. And if my words come across as self-gratifying at all, that’s probably because they are. I’m not here to tell my story today, but I’ve earned my inner sanctity through nothing less than sheer force of will. My goal with this entry is simply to help propel you, my dear reader, forward down this same beautiful path.
I suppose I did end up with a mile long preface regardless, but brevity was never my strong-suit.
I want to begin with the story about how gratitude changed my life. Firstly, I loathe the word gratitude. It just inherently feels like new age smugness to me. But g-ddamnit, the shit works.
Part of my journey over the past year has been a conscious choosing of new habits in order to rewire my brain. I’m not kidding. It’s called neuroplasticity, and it’s one of the most glorious scientific facts I know – nothing short of a biological miracle.
Here’s a one-minute video on neuroplasticity at it’s most basic level – the synapse:
Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
Seeds of gratitude are powerful forces for influencing your destiny – and as this Psychology Today article on the psychology of gratitude states, gratitude is different from, and more powerful than, appreciation:
Gratitude should also be distinguished from appreciation, which is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of a person or thing, but without the dimension of awe or wonder or profundity or humility that is the essence of gratitude.
Unfortunately, from an evolutionary psychology perspective, we are wired to be negative. Our survival was dependent upon our ability to identify dangers and threats. So, in the modern world, we are still subject to the same automatic negative bias that once helped our ancestors make it through each day with their lives intact.
So we end up going through life rarely cognizant of the amazing gifts and blessings that envelop each of our days in an abundance not known in centuries past, or to the majority of the world’s inhabitants who aren’t blessed to live in a peaceful and prosperous nation where they have not only basic human rights, but clean water, heat, shelter, and ample food.
But I’m not asking you to base your happiness on the fact that you aren’t in a North Korean gulag. As true as that is, it can also be a dangerous cop-out to use gratitude as an excuse for not living your life to it’s fullest potential. The real secret of gratitude is that it’s not meant only as a means to augment your happiness based on your existing circumstance, but to augment your existing circumstance based on your happiness.
The real secret of gratitude is that it’s not meant only as a means to augment your happiness based on your existing circumstance, but to augment your existing circumstance based on your happiness.
So, here’s what I have done to augment my circumstances with the additional happiness the practice of gratitude has given me. And let’s be clear, gratitude is a practice – you must practice it each day. Remember we are rewiring our brain.
1. Each morning, upon waking – the very first thing I do is begin to think of things I am grateful for.
If you were living your dream life – what would you do upon waking up? You would be grateful. Period. Don’t make me get verbose to explain this, use your imagination.
2. Each evening, I write in my journal the list of things I am grateful for.
This allows me to catch anything I missed during the day, and allows me to relive the feelings of gratitude I experienced. Not to mention that journaling itself can change your life – something I will write on in the future.
3. Each night before bed, I think of the things I am grateful for as I lie in the dark.
This way I can never go to bed in a bad mood.
It’s that simple. Period. You were meant to be grateful.
The problem is that society has programmed us to be negative. We focus on lack. We think we will believe it when we see it, but the truth is we will see it when we believe it. Try this for a month. I promise you, you won’t want to stop.
And pretty soon, you will find yourself more mindful of the things you are grateful for throughout your day.
And pretty soon you will find you have more to be grateful for. I beg of you my dear reader to trust you are reading this for a reason. Just try it. You’ll be surprised at what you are grateful for. You’ll come to find that you enjoy the things you are grateful for more the next time you experience them. You don’t need to read a book on gratitude, you merely need to practice it. By doing this, you’re requiring your brain to be grateful morning, noon, and night and thus rewiring your brain for a more grateful life.