How Gratitude Makes You Happier & How to Do It
Who or what do you appreciate most in your life right now? So much of our life is spent wanting to be somewhere else. Perhaps to be doing something else, or maybe even to be with someone else. So we miss what is going on in this moment right now.
Our minds are often busy thinking about our work, families, hopes, dreams and fears. We forget that pausing is really the only way to appreciate how precious our lives our.
When caught up in the whirlwind of modern day life we easily take for granted the moments when we really felt what it is to be alive, when we were genuinely grateful for our lives, even for a short moment.
As humans, we are always chasing after the future, wanting this, needing that, I will be happy when I have this, etc. We have a tendency to look back into the past as well, regretting things we did or did not say, analysing events and memories in depth. Not appreciating that our mind has the potential to be happy and healthy.
Evolution has provided us a brain that first and foremost focuses its attention on threats. It doesn’t matter if these threats are real or imagined. The brain doesn’t distinguish between a lion running after you from logging in first thing in the morning and seeing hundreds of unread emails in your inbox. Neuroscientists estimate that it takes around a tenth of a second to notice a threat - an unwanted email in your inbox, for example - and many times longer to notice something pleasant.
The brain tricks us into overestimating threats and underestimating rewards and opportunities. And while this makes evolutionary sense, it can end up crippling creativity and driving procrastination. As far as nature is concerned, it is far more important we survive than be happy and productive.
This is where gratitude comes in, it allows us to become aware of how great our lives are again. Gratitude helps counteract your brain’s natural tendency to focus on the negatives by focusing on the “rewards” in your life. You will find you start to notice more pleasant things in your life and the opportunities you are presented with. Not only has research found gratitude increases happiness, by recognising all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – you will also foster mental resilience.
So how do you practice gratitude?
1. Take time during the day to pause
When you wake up first thing in the morning, sit up in bed and take 20 seconds to be grateful that you have woken up. It might sound silly, but this pause and reflection gives your mind and body room to breath before starting your busy day.
You can also take 20-30 seconds of pause before each meal to reflect how grateful you are for what you are about to eat. Focus on the plate in front of you - where has the food come from? what does it look like? what can you smell?
2. Reflective Meditation
A meditation that creates space in the mind, where we can choose a topic or question to reflect on. The intention of the reflection meditation is to encourage a quiet and calm mind, into which we can then drop a question. It's not about trying to answer the question, or solve the problem, instead we just want to observe what it happening. Observing the thoughts, feelings or physical sensations that arise from it. You can try a reflective meditation here.
3. Bring awareness to what's going well
What is going well in your life? It might be people, daily habits, your environment, the place you live, your health, etc. In our Morning Mindset Journal we ask you to write down five things that you are grateful for each day. By incorporating gratitude into your morning routine you can increase your ability to foster mental positivity and resilience. Not only will you feel better in that moment, research has also shown that you will feel happier in general life.