Would you like an easy, free, painless way to shift your energy to a higher frequency and give yourself a more joyful life experience? A greater sense of inner stability? No matter what is going on around you or what you must deal with?
Hook into the energy signature of gratitude and observe how things shift for you.
The Importance of Gratitude
The idea of gratitude may seem trite, especially now, when many people in the United States celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. But this is not about a holiday meal or annual tradition, gratitude is a practice – a way of being – that if you consciously choose it can transform your experience of life.
Psychologist Robert Emmons has spent nearly his entire career studying gratitude and has found that few things in life are as integral to our wellbeing. Dr. Emmons’ research has shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier, either; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes. When researchers pick random volunteers, and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.
It is not that being grateful takes the pain away. Or that all suffering, challenge, frustration, lessons, irritations or the business of being human (which includes all the above) ceases. Choosing to see the good, be grateful, express appreciation – no matter the day you’ve had or the challenge you are experiencing – helps to shift the energy so that you have a greater capacity to deal with the reality you are living.
But how do you do that, you may be asking?
Gratitude Practices to Add Into Your Life
Three Good Things
One of my favorite practices is Shawn Achor’s daily exercise: Three Good Things. Shawn is a happiness researcher and has conducted one of the largest studies of happiness gathering data across more than 42 countries in his quest to uncover the secret to greater success and fulfillment in work and life. One of his greatest contributions is teaching people how to rewire their brains for happiness. He has proven that happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Three Good Things is a simple but powerful daily activity that rewires your brain to scan for more positive things and ultimately enables greater creativity and problem solving. I highly recommend you read The Happiness Advantage – it is one of my favorite books, or for a quick Shawn fix, watch his TED Talk here.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Identify three new good things that have happened in the past 24 hours.
2. They cannot be general (health, my partner, my job) – but must be specific moments, or experiences (i.e. the perfect slice of pizza I had while sitting in the sun; the phone call with my friend where we laughed and I could just be myself; the Epson salt bath I soaked in for 30 minutes while listening to my favorite music).
3. Write down your Three Good Things daily and share with a partner or friend.
I do Three Good Things in a myriad of ways. My husband and I do this practice nearly every night before we go to sleep. Whenever I speak with my 20-year-old son we share our Three Good Things. I start many of my weekly team meetings with Three Good Things (in this instance we take 60 seconds quietly for everyone to write down their Three Good Things then each of us shares one with the group). It is such a positive energizer and a great way to ‘get human fast’ in a positive way versus holding in place a professional façade. [Side note: anything you can do as a leader to help your colleagues drop their corporate armor is a good thing].
When you write down a list of Three Good Things that happened, your brain is forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential. In just a few moments each day, the brain becomes more skilled at noticing and focusing on possibilities. At the same time, because we can only focus on so much, our brains push out those small annoyances and frustrations that used to loom large, into the background and even out of our visual field entirely.
By the way, this daily activity has staying power. One study found that participants who wrote down Three Good Things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at the one-month, three-month and six-month follow-ups. More amazing – even after stopping the exercise they remained significantly happier and showed higher levels of optimism. They got better at scanning the world for good things to write down, and the more good things they shared, over time, without even trying, the more good things they saw wherever they looked. Remember, the items you write down each day don’t need to be profound or complicated, only specific.
When your brain constantly scans for and focuses on the positive you profit from three of the most important tools available to you – happiness, gratitude and optimism. The more you pick up on the positive around you, the better you’ll feel. And, the more opportunities for positivity you see, the more grateful you become.
Life Scale™ Check-In
Another potent practice is to step on the Life Scale™ every week to reflect on what is juicing you up in each of the four quadrants (heart, mind, body, and spirit). A Life Scale™ check-in requires three to five minutes where through a gratitude lens you are looking to identify an area of your life that is bringing you full body joy or is something that is helping you create a sense of greater stability in your life. For instance, you may reflect on the previous week and feel grateful to yourself for the daily walks you have been taking and notice how energizing and restorative that is for you. By recognizing it, and feeling grateful to yourself for giving yourself that gift of restoration, you are amplifying the positive effect of the choice you are making. (To learn more about the Life Scale™ watch this short video)
A third practice to help you consciously choose to hook into the energy signature of gratitude is to spend two minutes as you start your work day to send a positive email or text praising or thanking one person you know. When Shawn recently spoke at an event I was leading for a group of CEOs, he challenged the group to do this for 30 days in a row, selecting a different person each day. According to his research, this daily habit not only spreads positivity but also cements social connection – known as the greatest predictor of long term happiness.
When Gratitude Gets Tough…Take a Moment
What if, you may ask, you simply had the most horrid, awful, terrible, no good day and it makes you mad to even think about trying to be grateful? In that moment, when you recognize that is how you are feeling, take a few moments by yourself (sometimes I go sit in my closet and shut the door or go into a bathroom stall at the office), and place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your lower belly and simply breathe gently into your heart. If you can remember, breathe slowly in an out through your nose, and keep bringing your focus back to your heart. You may be feeling like you want to jump out of your skin, and that is totally a human thing to feel. Allow it and feel your hand on your heart. Feel your hand on your belly. Feel your breathing slow. Focus on your heart. And then choose from that space the next right-est thing you can do for yourself to reset.
Later – you can begin again and identify your Three Good Things. And it might just be that dark closet.
Gratitude is a conscious choice. Feeling and being grateful is a gateway to a greater sense of peace and stability within yourself. In a world that feels continuously unstable and unpredictable, remembering you have ways to strengthen your inner sense of stability is priceless.