16 Jan Gratitude: The Real Magic Power
If you’re reading this, you have a LOT to be grateful for. You’re on a computer or smartphone. That means you have electricity. You have running water. By historic standards, you’re one of the richest people who ever has lived.
And yet, it’s very easy to fall into negativity.
We live in a commercial culture that bombards us with messages that we don’t have enough, that we’re not enough.
This is true in both our personal and professional lives. We see all the ‘stuff’ that others have; jobs, cars, houses, spouses etc, and find ourselves lacking, despite the incontrovertible fact that by all standards, we’re terribly lucky.
Gratitude has been shown to be a powerful tool in happiness and productivity. Gratitude is not necessarily thanking a person or deity. It’s simply taking a bit of time to stop and acknowledge the good in your life. If you want to thank someone or something for that good, that’s cool. I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
Acknowledging How Lucky We Are Makes a Huge Difference
Taking a few moments to be grateful for what we have has been scientifically shown to have a big impact on quality of life. According to research done at the University of California, Berkeley, people of all ages benefit physically, emotionally and socially from being actively grateful.
Most participants of this research spent three weeks simply writing down a list of things for which they were grateful. By the end of that short time, they had stronger immune systems, were more alert/awake and felt less lonely and isolated! Based on their findings, the researchers even created a list of activities we each can do to cultivate more gratitude.
My Gratitude Journey
Last year I made a conscious effort to focus my attention on the positive elements of my life. I made a daily Facebook post (sometimes with a photo) of something that I was grateful for. After only a few days I was shocked at the positive impact it had on my entire life – both personal and business-wise.
Instead of thinking about the things I was lacking or the people and events that bothered me, my energy was almost exclusively focused on the good stuff. I even found myself thinking about events coming up in the future. “Oh man, next Tuesday’s gratitude post will be awesome!”
It’s important to note here that I didn’t try to reduce my negativity. By taking an active role in making myself more grateful, the negative elements of my never-ending thought stream simply didn’t have room to compete.
What Do You Spend Your Time Thinking About?
If you’re anything like me, your mind is constantly full of thoughts. From the work that we’re currently focused on, to random thoughts about the past and future. “The deadline is approaching.” “What’s for dinner?” “That’s a nice car.” “I need an oil change.” “That guy is a jerk.” It never stops, right?
But even with this constant mental stream, we only have so much space for thoughts. Think of your mind as a bucket. Each thought is a drop. By the end of the day, your bucket is full of thought drops. Some will be positive, some neutral, some negative. But you only have so much space.
At the end of a day, if you find that you have more negative thought drops than you want, it’s up to you to change it. But, and perhaps this is a bit counterintuitive, it does you no good to try to reduce negativity. By focusing on that negativity, you’re actually giving it more power – more drops in the bucket.
It’s a bit like dieting. Depriving yourself of cupcakes actually keeps you focused on cupcakes!
Shift Your Perspective to Gratitude
Instead, by focusing on the good, you crowd out the bad. You can choose to fill yourself up with good stuff.
When I started doing daily gratitude posts, my attention was on all the good in my life. Then, my mind simply didn’t have enough energy to think about negativity. I have to admit, it was kind of magical. The simple act of thinking about what I had to be grateful for had a huge effect on my life. I spent so much more time thinking about ‘good stuff’ and so much less time filled with worry, doubt or trouble.
Unfortunately, I dropped the ball. Something came up in my life that felt totally out of my control and traumatic. I let the negative ‘drops’ add up and I eventually stopped doing the daily gratitude posts. After the initial shock, I bounced back, but never ended up going back to daily gratitude posts.
I’m proclaiming 2016 to be my “Year of Gratitude” and I’ll be posting a photo every day on Instagram along with the hashtag #my2016theme.
One of the most powerful ways to benefit from a yearly theme (whether it’s ‘gratitude’ or something else.) is to share it with a like-minded community. So join me! Follow me on Instagram @dantrommater (I’ll follow you back), then post photos that illustrate your own theme, still using the hashtag #my2016theme. Be part of my 2016 Photo Challenge (see my earlier post about this and join in!)
Together, we will work our way through the year, helping each other stick to our themes and increasing the good stuff in our lives and work.