Gratitude - the three syllable word that seems to be more in vogue than ‘kale’ these days. Gratitude is that warm fuzzy feeling you get when a loved one cooks you a meal, when a friend texts you to see how your day went or when you get positive news back from a medical test.
Sonja Lyubomirsky is a positive psychology researcher and author of several books on happiness. She believes that while expressing gratitude makes you and others happier, it also has a fundamental impact on your brain in a positive way. “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.”
In neuroscience research, Hebb’s Law says that “neurons that fire together wire together.” The more you strengthen the brain’s neural circuits for gratitude, the easier it becomes to focus on that precise feeling of gratitude. When you start to focus on the things you already have in your life that are good, your brain becomes better at discovering similar things.
We’ve come up with three easy ways to help you actively practice gratitude for a happier life.
- • Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down three things you’re grateful for. They can be as small as a smell or an interaction you witnessed, or something bigger, like success in the workplace or a person you love.
- • Look around a room in your house and see just how many things there are in it to feel grateful for. In your bedroom, this may be your comfy bed, photographs of good times, gifts given to you by friends, a piece of art that makes you feel good etc.
- • Write a letter of gratitude to someone from your past who has had a huge impact on your life. Detail what exactly they did for you, how you felt about it at the time and why it is still so important to you. You can send it or save it.