Finally something that science and spirituality can agree upon - gratitude changes things. Although the gap between these two collectives seems to be being bridged more frequently with the advent of quantum reality studies, it's noteworthy to state that gratitude practice is one of the few interventions that has been quantified and accepted by both the scientific and spiritual communities.
So, how can gratitude change your life?
The human brain is genetically wired for survival. Throughout history, survival has been dependent on one's ability to perceive threats and danger in the form of drought, famine and predators. We are predisposed to look for and place emphasis on unsafe conditions.
As time, technology and industry have evolved, immediate threats to our survival have waned significantly. However, our brains are still hotwired this way in order to preserve the species. Once the brain identifies a pattern that is successful in keeping us alive, it sticks with it and creates shortcuts to help improve our chances of survival. These grooves or pathways become deeply entrenched within our gray matter and convert to default programming. This is a very efficient system for survival, but given that the average human has about 60,000 thoughts a day, of these, 90% are recurring and of these recurring thoughts, 80% are negative - not so much for happiness. Have you ever wondered a) why it's so hard to get out of your head and b) why it feels so good when you finally do? A large majority of us are running thousands of fear-based thought programs a day without really even being fully aware that we are doing it. This is why finding even a moment's reprieve from our tangled thoughts is so soothing for the mind and spirit.
How can you find thought-relief more often?
Luckily for us, the human brain is highly adaptable - the synapses are capable of change and respond quickly to new programming patterns. One of the most accessible, fastest and easiest ways to create new neural synapse connections is to consciously start focusing your attention on positive thoughts, experiences and situations.
Research has proven that spending just 3-5 minutes per day in gratitude can significantly increase feelings of happiness, joy and contentment as well as help to rewire the brain. Additional side effects of this new programming include:
Before beginning Foundations of Positive Psychology coursework at the University of Pennsylvania, the class was required to fill out an intake survey designed to measure our current levels of happiness which would then serve as baseline data for the duration of our studies. After 30 days of recording just three things we were thankful for in a daily log, the entire class's happiness scores increased by an average 25%.
I believe so much in this practice that I have my kids do it each night. My son's lists often make me LOL but they are 100% authentic - "muffins cooled down, basketball, food baby." There is no wrong way to do this and nothing is too small to include on your list - my son was thankful that the blueberry muffins cooled down because he was really looking forward to enjoying them. He expressed gratitude for being able to savor a sweet moment and that is awesome! I hear my kids commenting back and forth during the day "that's something you can write on your thankful list." This simple practice helps retrain their brains to identify positive experiences rather than focusing so much on what's going wrong.
In addition to the nighttime practice, I like to start each day with gratitude. Upon waking up, I immediately call to mind three things I'm grateful for.
Some examples include: vision, hearing, good health, running water, electricity, education, family, friends, clothes, food, roads, bridges, schools, freedom of speech, free will, access to medical care, freedom from religious persecution, travel, a working vehicle, the ability to move my body, the ability to create, sense of touch and taste, unlimited access to knowledge and information. There is always something to be grateful for. Taking the time to identify just three things for which I'm grateful creates a new pathway in my brain, forges new connections and energetically switches my consciousness to abundance rather than lack. Those who practice the Law of Attraction know that, as the Universe responds to vibrations, manifestation happens more quickly and smoothly when coming from a place of appreciate and abundance, rather than scarcity and lack. Like attracts like so placing more focus on uplifting experiences will ensure that you create more of them.
I have seen this simple practice transform people's lives time and time again, often serving as the impetus for a major shift - out of victim mode and into acceptance, love, forgiveness and expansion.
We are surrounded by beauty, blessings and opportunity, it's up to us to acknowledge and appreciate this abundance. No one is perfect and we all fall into the traps of lack, comparison and complaining. Catching yourself in the moment and making the conscious shift to create a new story and find gratitude can create a new pathway in your brain and improve your level of happiness and quality of life by leaps and bounds.
Do you have a daily gratitude practice? What three things are you thankful for?
Whether it’s love, good health, a solid relationship, serenity, freedom, a title, respect, or a certain number in the bank or on the scale - anything you chase will always be outside of you.
Apart from you.
A Perpetual Separation.
The energy of chasing by nature keeps you in pursuit and the desired "thing" running away from you. This creates more resistance & frustration and actually widens the gap between you and what you want.