Gratitude was previously something I associated with annoying self-development positivity pushers.
Annoyingly happy people just pissed me off. I felt they weren’t being ‘realistic’
“practicing gratitude is positively correlated with living a bloody good life”.
I used to be what you’d call a pessimist. The way I saw it, I hated to be let down, so I preferred to assume the worst before it happened. It meant that my thinking was predominantly geared towards negative outcomes.
We have selective attention – there are so many stimuli around us at all times, our brain has to work out which information is useful to us and which isn’t.
This is why we can be in a room full of people talking and focus in on eavesdropping on just one conversation.
It’s probably a conversation about sex.
So you filter information in and out of your field of attention.
It’s up to you what filter you choose to put over your eyes and ears each morning. If you put on rose tinted glasses, the world will appear pink. If your glasses are yellow, the sky will be yellow. (Or maybe green?!)
So, when you see view the world through a filter of pessimism, your attention seeks out shit that is wrong in the world (there’s plenty of it), and it reinforces your belief that life is kinda tough.
If you’ve always viewed the world through pessimist glasses, you might not be aware that this is the case. I certainly wasn’t, I was very attached to my pessimist glasses.
If you’d worn green glasses your whole life, you might genuinely believe that the sky is green. If you then took them off, it might take a while to be convinced that it is actually blue.
When you view the world through a filter of optimism, your attention seeks out the good things in the world around you and this will reinforce your belief that life is bloody good.
Instead of noticing that everyone on the tram is sullenly glued to their iPhones, you can notice the burly teenager helping a little old lady off the tram. One will reinforce the goodness in the world, and the other will reinforce the bad – it’s hard to believe it when you’re feeling shitty, but it really is up to you.
I used to think that negativity was ‘me’, not a choice. But (for the first time ever), I was wrong.
Creating a positive mindset is actually something you can strengthen with practice, like a muscle.
But our mind is geared to focus on the negative (more on why another day) – Think about it, how long do you dwell on a negative comment vs someone giving you a compliment?
So we need to retrain our negative mind.
How the hell?
Here’s where the science of gratitude comes in.
Studies show that practicing gratitude enhances happiness, like quite a lot or something.
But unless we’ve been brought up with it, practicing gratitude doesn’t come naturally.
So your best bet is Cross-fit for the brain.
It’s called gratitude journalling.
You might have heard it round the traps and thought, nah, that’s for annoying people.
But it works. (I’ll explain why tomorrow).
Writing down three things that you’re grateful for at the end of each day is like doing handstand push-ups for the positivity of your mind.
(You could also do it in the morning if your prefer, it can be a good way to start the day off with the right filter). The key is consistency – take a couple of minutes to do it at the beginning or end of every day.
They need only be small things, whatever comes to mind:
1. I’m grateful that my teeth are minty fresh and ready for bed, cheers Colgate. (Or a better-for-the-world-and-your-mouth organic brand).
2. I’m grateful that I’m going to see 50 Shades of Grey tomorrow.
3. I’m grateful for that cat video that made me laugh when I was meant to be working.
Give it a go. Even if you feel like a dick. Notepad and pen by the bed. Do it.