Last week my mom threw me a “Sprinkle” to celebrate baby #3 (a girl, after 2 boys!) And as I’m sitting here writing Thank You notes to all the amazing women in my life who showed up for me, it reminded me of the power of gratitude.
When we start to pay attention to something, it starts to show up in our lives more and more. So this notion of making the space for gratitude, is actually more powerful than we give it credit for.
Ever notice how when you’re eyeing up a new car, you start to see it EVERYWHERE? Well, the reticular activating system in your brain (the RAS) has become your filter. You deemed that new Jeep Grand Cherokee as important, and now your RAS has filtered out the important things, so you suddenly see it more often.
The same thing happens in your brain when you start to look for things that you’re grateful for. You see them more often. And that changes how you see the world.
TRY IT YOURSELF
As with mindfulness there are a TON of documented benefits practicing gratitude can have on our minds and bodies.
Here are 3 ways you can start to incorporate more gratitude into your life, this week:
- Build yourself a playlist: In 2020 Every single morning, without fail, to wake up my family, I’d pump the whole house with my “Morning Time” playlist to get some happy feeling vibes flowing as we’d start our day. Bonus points if your playlist makes you groove and shimmy a bit. Give Thanks by Zack Winters and Beautiful by Carol King (or Jessie Mueller if you’re a broadway fan) are my go-to wake up jams.
- Put Pen to Paper: Grab a special notebook and your favorite pen. Put it by your bed. Every morning when you wake up, write 3 things you’re grateful for. When you go to bed, write 3 great things that happened that day. The practice takes literally 5 minutes, but watch how your life JUST.GETS.BETTER. If you want to make the ritual extra special, grab the stunning 5-Minute Journal from Intelligent Change. The beautiful fabric lined book and prompts make the practice even easier.
- Self Assess: Take a quick self-assessment of where you are now. This 20-item quiz from Greater Good at Berkeley helps you Understand where you are, so you can decide where you want to go. It gives you an overall gratitude score based on a scale developed by psychologists, Mitchel Adler, and Nancy Fagley. After you take the quiz, it will give you personalized steps on how to promote further gratitude in your life.
There is so much research on how gratitude can change our lives personally and professionally. Here are some of my favorite resources:
Watch This TED talk by Louie Schwartzberg is nothing short of stunning. This quick 10-minute video will help you feel connection and feel grateful for this beautiful world we’re in, fast.
Read “It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.” – Brene Brown. Check out her newest book “Atlas of the Heart” to explore the latest research on emotions, including this connection between joy and gratitude. (Have you seen her HBO special? It’s on my “to-watch” list – get ready to be cracked open).
Get academic: Want the research? Check out this whitepaper on The Science of Gratitude that goes deep with details by UC Berkeley.
Until next time, remember to be intentional about what you pay attention to,
PS: During Heavy News cycles it can feel like “practicing gratitude” bypasses what we’re actually thinking and feeling, which is not the goal here. If finding gratitude feels tough this week, go back to your mindfulness practice and OBSERVE how you’re feeling, without trying to change anything.
A note on Secondary Traumatic Stress: According to Nawal Mustafa (aka TheBrainCoach): “Heightened stress, irritability and sadness as a result of hearing about the firsthand trauma experiences of another, including through news, social media posts and other sources. STS can lead to compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
- Limit exposure to news and social media. It is important to stay informed but repeatedly consuming the same information can leave us feeling emotionally exhausted and negative. Please be mindful of this.
- Get involved in positive community action. Channel your emptions to donate, speak up, protest for change.
- Engage in healthy self-care (ie exercise, eat healthful foods, spend time with friends and loved ones)
- Do something to temporarily distract your mind (an activity you enjoy).
The research here focuses mainly on healthcare workers, but these symptoms are also present in others who are exposed to images and stories about a traumatic event. The internet and social media gives us immediate access to information about world events and trauma. Please be mindful of how these events have a ripple effect on our psychological wellness.”