Did you know that you can't feel depressed or bummed out when you're feeling grateful? How awesome is that!?
Apparently when you are feeling gratitude it triggers the same part of your brain that releases dopamine - aka the "feel-good" hormone - and who in the world doesn't want more feel-good hormones swirling around? And - get this - if you practice being grateful - like taking 5 minutes at the end of the day or simply writing down a few things that you are grateful for in a journal every night - you get better at it. I'm serious! Once you start seeing things to be grateful for your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for.
Not. Even. Kidding.
And that does not begin to cover the details on all the neuroscience that has been done on this topic. There is a mountain of research to prove how good gratitude is for you. Even when you think you are having a record-breaking crappy day my guess is that you could find something, some small little thing, to be grateful for.
We typically start hearing about being grateful sometime in mid-autumn. This lasts until New Year’s when resolutions take over. My family has for sure been influenced by the wave of Thanksgiving thankfulness. As a result we always go around the table on the 4th Thursday of November and take turns saying what we are grateful for. This is now a holiday ritual that our dinner guests have come to expect from us. If you know me then you know that both Thanksgiving and rituals each have a place on my personal gratitude list – but I digress…. The point is that we can choose to be grateful in April and September as well. We can be grateful the whole damn year. And we should be!
There is no downside to remembering to be grateful. None. Zero. Zip. The trick here is the remembering. Which is why I recommend 2 things: a notebook and – wait for it – a ritual. If you practice writing down 3 -5 things in a gratitude journal every night before you go to sleep you begin to create a habit that can last a lifetime. I am talking about little things or big things - it matters not. My recent lists have included items like apples, Fage 2% yogurt, a sale at Anthropologie, my mother, my friends, my health, my daughter’s laugh, coffee, the best summer I can remember in 20 years and the Scrabble app on my phone.
By getting into the practice of taking 5 minutes or less each night to recall a few things we are grateful for we can train our brains to be more aware of the stuff we appreciate in our lives. And our brains will reward us by causing us to feel good.
So – quick recap here: Get grateful, feel good, repeat.
Sounds like a “no-brainer”, right? (sorry – couldn’t resist!).