We hear about having an “Attitude of Gratitude” but why?
Isn’t that just more of that self-improvement nonsense, where we try to convince ourselves that we are happy when we are not? Does it even do anything?
1. It increases out AWARENESS of the positive things in our lives
We don’t notice things we are not looking for and when we have a negative mind set, because our emotions direct out attention, our thoughts and our actions (see Old Brain New Brain post for more details on this), we instinctively notice, think about, and do things in line with our mood.
This makes it more likely that a mood will persist, whether it is positive or negative, whether it is good for us or not.
The good news though is that we can CONSCIOUSLY OVER-RIDE this mechanism when we recognize we are getting in a funk, by CHOOSING to focus on the things we are grateful for. It can be anything from being grateful we got out of bed today, to being grateful we got a raise!
2. What we choose to focus on CHANGES OUR EXPERIENCE
If you are willing, let’s do an experiment…write down something negative that you tell yourself on one piece of paper and write down something you are grateful for on another. Now hold them both at an arms length and move one of them forward, so you are focusing on the negative thing you tell yourself first.
Do this for 1 min, just continuously reading what you have on the paper and letting yourself connect to it. Notice how you feel, what kinds of thoughts you are having and how excited you feel about life right in this moment.
Now do the same thing, only bringing the positive comment or what you are grateful for forward and focusing on it. Notice how you feel, what kinds of thoughts you are having and how excited you feel about life right in this moment.
It is like zooming in on a picture, what we choose to zoom in on changes our experience of what we see and how we feel!
3. Focusing on what we are grateful for IMPROVES OUR HEALTH
Studies have shown repeatedly that people who are more optimistic and who use an “Attitude of Gratitude” actually have better outcomes when going through cancer treatment, quicker recoveries post-surgery and after heart attacks! They even have better rates of recovery in physical rehab settings (people who have lost limbs and re-learning to walk, move etc).
People who use an “attitude of gratitude” on a daily base also have lower rates of illness, like the common cold and report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives and lower rates of anxiety and depression.
What we CHOOSE to focus on impacts our emotional experience as well as our physical health- in short, it changes our life!
As always, we would love to hear from you here, by email, or on twitter: @kryanwilson or @DrAdrianaWilson.