The Magic of Gratitude

 In America

You may have heard the expression “an attitude of gratitude”. But what does it mean? It has nothing to do with religion or being a “good person”. If you’re in pain or struggling the last thing you might feel is grateful. However, summoning gratitude has the power to shift our thinking and mood. Why? Because our brain can’t focus on being miserable and being grateful at the same time.

 
Think about it: when you’re in pain, angry, disappointed, sad, worried, etc. your brain is fixated on the thoughts producing those emotions. If you force yourself to focus on one thing you’re grateful for (Clean water? Roof over your head? A delicious meal? Healthy kids?), for that moment you’ve taken your attention away from what’s troubling you. And being grateful feels wonderful: it fills us energy and enthusiasm.
 
Choosing to be grateful makes us the master of our mind: we are not being dragged along by a brain programmed to feed us negative thoughts (covered in previous blogs) due to millions of years of focus on survival. We need to use our reasoning brain, whose evolutionary purpose enables us to grow and develop out of debilitating, unproductive emotions such as worry and fear.
 
Here’s how it worked for me today: my dishwasher flooded all over kitchen floor. I am grateful that it happened now instead of in two weeks when I’ll be on vacation and my house sitter will be here. My ex texted me sounding very pissed off. I’m grateful that even though I wanted to respond with sarcasm and criticism, I didn’t. I’ve learned that my negative reactions add gasoline to the fire. I’m grateful that I want peace more than being “right”. Even better, my restraint paid off when later we talked and he shared how stressed and exhausted he is due to work. If I’d reacted to his behavior, we’d be in unnecessary conflict.
 
What are some way you can use gratitude today? Train your brain to reap the benefits of gratitude when it wants to focus on the negative. Watch your life change.
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