Habit #1 Gratitude
This is one of the most established and well-known happiness habits. Oprah has been talking about gratitude lists for over a decade and the science behind it is rock solid. If you are looking for the most straight-forward and proven change to make, gratitude is a great place to start.
How to Do It
For 21 days in a row, record three things you are grateful for and why. The three gratitudes must be different each day and they must be specific; you cannot say you are grateful for your health or family without saying why. It’s helpful to choose the same time each day to write these down – many choose to do this right before bed, others like to kick off their work day with it (before checking their email), still others like to set a calendar reminder for a specific time each day. Find a time that works for you.
It doesn’t matter whether you handwrite your gratitudes or do it in electronic form. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy journal or just grab whatever scrap piece of paper you have around. What does matter is that you spend a few minutes scanning the past 24 hours for things that you can appreciate. Try not to make it one more thing on your to-do list, but rather slow down and open up to those feelings of appreciation for the luck you’ve had in your life, for the generosity of friends or coworkers, for whatever you are grateful for. Here are some good examples of the “what and why” of gratitude.
I am gratefulFor the hug my daughter gave me this morning showing me that I am loved.For the thank-you note my boss sent me yesterday. It made me feel like a valued member of the team.That I had 10 minutes this morning to do whatever I wanted; it’s been a long time since I’ve just flipped through a magazine.That my ankle seems fully healed. Now I can get back to my regular running schedule which helps me feel good and energized.For the milk in my fridge and the Cheerios in my bowl this morning. I appreciate that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal comes from.That the sun was shining during my walk into work. The colors reflecting off the building were gorgeous.
As you get more established at this practice, start looking for other places in your life to bring in gratitude – go around the dinner table and ask what everyone is grateful for; use some of your commute time to review the good things in your life; when you are bored waiting for something, instead of checking your phone, look around for something to appreciate.
How It Helps
Here’s a smattering of what science has shown.
Our brain is a single processer. When you are focused (however briefly) on things to appreciate in your life, there is literally no brain space left for anger, sadness or worry.As the practice continues you strengthen those neuro-pathways that look for what’s good in your life, making it easier and easier for your brain to find things to appreciate. It’s like weight-lifting; you build your gratitude “muscle” by using it. (Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage, likens this to what happens after you play Tetris for an extended period. Suddenly, you see those geometric shapes everywhere — in the brick wall, as the city skyline — and you start making them fit together in your mind.)When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.Practicing gratitude daily for 21 days can significantly raise your optimism even 6 months later.
Now a quick look at the psychology and neuroscience of Gratitude
Experts say that practicing gratitude can increase health and happiness levels by about 25% ! And we all know that to achieve optimum health we need a healthy body, but we also need a healthy mind. Like muscle building, your mind also takes a while to build up and get strong. For this essentially practicing gratitude certainly helps.
When the going gets tough (whether in health, in relationship, in finance, or in career) it helps to remember that we have not come into this human incarnation only to enjoy comfort and convenience. Our primary purpose here is to learn, evolve, and grow. Every difficulty that we encounter offers an opportunity to live this life's purpose.
Offering gratitude to our difficult experiences (including difficult people) helps us see the big picture - and vice-versa.
Keeping a gratitude journal makes you happier, but that's not all. It also increases enthusiasm, determination and even alertness.
People who keep gratitude journals have also been found to make more progress on their personal goals. It helps you to wire your brain for positivity and optimism, making you a more effective, likeable and successful person.
Yeah, gratitude is awesome… but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.
You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.
The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable…
Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.
One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.
I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?
Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.
It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.
And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.
So be grateful be happy be healthy!!!