Have you ever notice how your brain seems to always pick up and dwell on the negative? It is all part of science. Our brains are hardwired to respond and focus on the negative.
Studies done by psychologist Dr. John Cacioppo, as previously mentioned on my blog prove the brain reacts stronger to negative stimuli than positive. This is all part of the brains built-in mechanism to protect ourselves from danger. But, always focusing on the negative can be tough on our mental health. It can worsen depression and anxiety, and lead to general unhappiness.
Practicing gratitude—while a learned practice—can help us pivot from our brain’s hardwiring for negativity, and help us to see the positive things we often overlook. Gratitude takes us out of our own nearsightedness and helps us recognize there is something/someone other than ourselves. It helps us to remember to be fair and to see both the negatives and positives in life and in others. It creates a more well-rounded existence.
A powerful way—and relatively easy routine to adapt—to practice gratitude is The Power of Three. It is to give gratitude, whether it be at the end of each day or in the moment, to someone, something, and yourself. Each day, give recognition to (at least) one person for doing something nice for you, one positive thing that happened to you, and, last but not least, to yourself for doing something nice for others or yourself. Don’t forget to be nice to yourself!
I encourage my clients to start gratitude journals, where each night before bed they write down at least one positive thing that came of the day. It can be as simple as not getting any red lights on the way home from work, listening to your favorite song when you woke up, getting a hug from your child, sharing dinner with your spouse, opening the door for a stranger, or a funny joke with a friend. There is something positive that happens each day. Practicing gratitude keeps us from being bogged down by all the negativity our brains seek. Using a journal to record those positive things can help us to keep stock of all the positive in our lives. It only takes a few minutes and can have a huge impact on your day-to-day happiness level.