This is what 365 days of gratitude looks like.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
Did you know you can rewire your brain to become more positive?
In 2015 my son gifted me an ordinary, relatively inexpensive, empty glass jar for Christmas. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts he could have chosen for me and the timing was perfect. You see, while it was an ordinary jar it had a significant purpose. It was to be the receptacle for positivity, gratefulness and happiness.
Each day, for a year, I wrote one thing (sometimes more) I was grateful for on a slip of paper and popped it into my gratitude jar. If I travelled I took my little slips of paper with me. I loved this practice. It was nice to end each day in reflection and thanks. It helped me to focus on the good and what I wanted more in my life rather than the negative.
Now that the new year has begun, I feel at a loss, searching for some new ‘project’. In 2014 I took a photo a day of something that caught my eye, stirred my emotions, interested me in some way. 2015 was my gratitude challenge. What small routine, I’ve been wondering, can I focus on this year to build positivity and happiness? I’ve had a few ideas and then I heard a TED talk by psychologist Shawn Achor that gave me a few more.
What, you ask, does all this have to do with rewiring your brain? Well, what I learnt from Achor’s illuminating talk, “The happy secret to better work”, was that in modern society we link happiness to success. Sadly, this paring ensures we never get there. Why? Because we constantly shift the goal posts of success. Once we reach a goal, we move it, we are compulsively reaching to be more successful because we believe we will be happier.
Interestingly, our brains work the other way around. If we are happy we’ll be more successful. When we raise our level of positivity in the present, our brain experiences a happiness advantage. In this state intelligence, creativity, productivity and energy levels rise thanks to a neat chemical called dopamine. Dopamine floods into your system when you’re positive, making you happier. It also turns on the learning centers in your brain.
Can you imagine the advantages of utilising this theory in the classroom, at work, and in your personal life?
According to Achor’s research you can rewire your brain simply and easily. Below are a some ideas, like my gratitude jar exercise, that can, if done for 21 days in a row, allow your brain to work more positively and henceforth successfully.
Try one of these:
1. Write down three new things that you are grateful for for 21 days in a row. At the end of this time your brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive first.
2. Journal about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours. This practice allows your brain to relive it. Multiple exposures to positive events and emotions helps to create new patterns of behaviour and thought. Your brain can’t tell the difference between an actual event or a relived/ remembered event.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
3. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. Do a two minute workout – try squats or push ups while the kettle boils or take a 20 minute walk at lunch time.
4. Meditate. It doesn’t have to be long. Start with 5 -10 minutes a day. Meditation allows your brain a break from the frenetic, fast paced, multitasking we engage in daily and allows your brain to focus.
5. Practice conscious acts of kindness. One idea is to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in your support network/ work team each day for 21 days.
Research has found that by doing these, or similar, activities and by training the brain we can create ripples of positivity. It takes only 21 days to create habit, and only about two minutes a day for most of the actions above. Simple. Easy. Fun too. Is it worth giving it a shot?
Each new and unexperienced day is a celebration, the key is to see the specialness of each day so you can tap into the science of happiness.