Having an attitude of gratitude is a daily habit that has literally changed my life. It’s a key player on my wellness team and got promoted to team captain early in its career. It works hard in the winter because lets face it that when I need it most.
The thing about gratitude is that it’s fun and easy to include in our daily lives. It gives us something tangible to work with that effects real change quite quickly and it works. Psychologist and best-selling author Shawn Achor has made a career out of studying the science of happiness and it just so happens he’s one of my favourite authors too having penned books like ‘Before Happiness’ and ‘The happiness advantage’ that make me smile before I even open their covers.
Having suffered from depression for most of my life I always placed my happiness on external factors like work, money and success but real happiness is an inside job and one that needs to be worked on daily and taken seriously. I never realized that I could choose to be happier as I always thought that you were either a happy or a sad person. I had written myself off and labeled myself until I discovered the world of positive psychology and neuroplasticity (rewiring the brain). The fact that the brain can rewire itself through experiences is a relatively new discovery but a very exciting one. It basically means that you can alter the structure and function of your brain through mental training. Working with many different therapies like CBT cognitive behavioural therapy and including some mindfulness, meditation and gratitude in my day I soon discovered that it’s possible to rewire your brain at any stage in your life. The thing is though just like exercising your muscles during exercise you do have to use it or you will lose it. So you need to be consistent with your happiness habits.
[bctt tweet=”Saying thank you mindlessly and practising gratitude mindfully are two completely different things: the latter will set you free” username=”alicanavan”]
Just think of gratitude as your psychological hot water bottle to get you through winter and its great fun for the family too. The health benefits include better sleep, less illness, better mood, increased empathy, improved self esteem and it has even been shown to have anti-aging benefits too! Every evening I ask my six-year-old son James to go through his day and pick the one thing he is most grateful for. This is my favourite part of the day as not only do I get an insight into his world but it’s also an important habit that encourages him to see the good things that happen each day. When I pick him up from school I always hear the negative stories about who is in trouble or what went wrong but this way I get to hear about the good things that happen too. It can be a fun game at dinner and a great way to start the morning too.
Psychologist and author of ‘Hardwiring Happiness’ Rick Hanson says “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”. I have found that working with my brain and on my happiness has brought contentment and an energy of appreciation into my life in a more natural way. Keeping a gratitude journal has also helped me to keep my life in perspective and see beyond the seemingly bad stuff. So why not give yourself a mindful break and try keeping a gratitude journal this winter.
MY TOP 5 TIPS:
BUY A DEDICATED GRATITUDE JOURNAL– Having a thankful or gratitude journal makes the practice special and it’s a lovely way to read back on the good things in your life on bad days. My mantra: On days you feel blue have a read back through!
GO FOR QUALITY RATHER THAN QUANTITY– Choose 3 things you are grateful for and then expand and write why in a journal. This way you get to create a deep energy of appreciation within
GET UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL– research has shown that focusing on whom you are grateful for rather than what you are grateful for can have a bigger impact
INCREASING AWARENESS – The key to personal growth is awareness and keeping a gratitude journal helps you to learn more about yourself
ENJOY IT – Its for your eyes only so be personal and be true