I think we can all agree that, if given the opportunity, we’d elect to increase our happy feelings and decrease our sad ones.
Because with a shift in your mindset you can ACTUALLY change how you brain works. Scientists (many scientists, in fact) have studied the various ways gratitude affects the human brain and the results are, well I’m not going to lie, they are AWESOMESAUCE.
Feelings of gratitude directly activated brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine feels good to get, which is why it’s generally considered the “reward” neurotransmitter. Source:Psychology Today
Which is why taking a step back during a crummy day to sit on the garage steps and make a list of things your grateful for can have an almost unbelievable impact on how the rest of the day goes.
Sure, hollering “MOMMY NEEDS A MINUTE” can certainly (sometimes) get you a bit of break, but taking the time that you may have spent pacing in the garage or fuming in the bathroom to instead list all of the things you are grateful for, is going to serve you far better right away.
I’ve written a list with pen and paper.
I’ve said them out loud. (Starting with a fairly shouty/ragey tone and mellowing into actual calm.)
I’ve even used the gratitude list that I keep on my phone and simply re-read some of the things I’ve noted before.
The point is I’ve been able to hijack my brain from its joyride down the rage freeway and get back to a place where I’m a functional, level-headed grown up.
I think we can all agree that “level-headed grown up” is our universal goal.
Besides calming your cranky a$$ down, stopping to acknowledge the things you have to be grateful for can kick start a happiness loop.
Your brain loves to fall for the confirmation bias, that is it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. And the dopamine reinforces that as well. So once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. Source:Psychology Today
So, the more I take the time to recognize the things I am grateful for, the more happy and grateful I feel as I cruise through life?
(Image by Ali Edwards. Get it here.)
Which is why I don’t save my gratitude for moments when I’m circling the rage drain. Any and every day works to write down what you’re grateful for.
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Years ago I started ending my day by writing down three things I was grateful for that day. It was a nightly ritual that helped me notice all of the little and big things that brought me happiness.
Here’s a small sample from the last few years:
Getting on an earlier flight so I could see Joe before bed.
Hotels with fluffy robes.
Mom restocked the Tide.
Exit row seats.
Happy kiddo's eating ice cream.
Hilarious "work meetings" with Rachael. "Would you run me over for 5 million dollars?"
Found a new podcast.
Reading to Bryce in her room. She snuggled up to me and made her tiny plastic toy horse trot up and down my arm. It was such a sweet little kiddo moment.
A sunny day for sidewalk chalk.
Sleeping in until 9.
HUGE HUGS off the bus!
Some of those from that list were easy. Happy moments that sprung to mind that I wanted to save forever. Some were harder to see. That fluffy robe? That was me grasping for some slice of good in what had been a grueling few days of business travel.
And to this day, whenever I travel and see a robe in the hotel closet, I smile.
Try it. Set an alarm on your phone. Title the alarm “3 Things” like I did.
You’ll be glad you did.