Life is often compared to a journey. When you go on a road trip or a holiday, you see and experience so much but you only take pictures of some moments. A few years later when you can’t remember much, you look at the pictures you took and smile.
Practising gratitude is like taking pictures of the good stuff happening to you all the time but that you miss because you’re in a mad rush to get to your destination.
Doing it every day helps you take stock of your life, filter out the unimportant stuff and remember the highlights. It allows you to tell yourself what happened and what you wish to remember in the long-term.
If you don’t care to acknowledge the good at the time it happens, you’ll remember very little of it when you look back years later.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The human mind is like an information centre where there is constant input and output of information and not a moment of stillness. Worse still, you have little control over the thoughts entering and exiting your mind but are completely dependent on it to function. In such a scenario, gratitude does something vital. It:
1. Shapes your perspective
2. Allows you to reshape your perspective
In other words, the act of pausing to ask yourself, ‘What’s going on, am I seeing the entire picture or choosing to attach to a side I prefer? Have I noticed the good things that happened to me or am I too focussed on things that didn’t work out?’ to discover the bright side gives you a chance to control the way you think and feel.
When you’re in pain or feel lost, gratitude helps you rewire your brain. It doesn’t wipe your pain away or solve your problems but it helps you see that not everything is bad, that it could be worse but isn’t, and that you’re still blessed despite everything.
It helps you refocus, move out of the dingy corner of your head you’re hiding in and appreciate the positive aspects of reality (always something you haven’t noticed).
HOW DOES IT AFFECT US?
Endorphin, dopamine and serotonin are chemicals released by the brain that trigger positive emotions in the human body. When you bring a good thought/memory into awareness and give it space and attention, your brain releases these chemicals consequently lifting your mood.
Do the gratitude exercise daily. It’s like a mini-meditation session. Breathe and think about your day.
Ask yourself, what you’re grateful for today? What are the things that worked in your favour today? Was someone kind to you? Did you laugh a little? Did you get a seat while commuting to work? Were you able to skip through the traffic jam? Was your dinner delicious? Do you have a good book to read before going to bed? Did you receive a friendly text from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while?
Do it before you sleep or when you wake up. Fix a time, it’s the only way to develop a habit.