Let’s have a chat about gratitude. You know that I know that you know what gratitude is, and you are most likely aware of studies that show how regular gratitude thoughts massage your brain into all sorts of happiness states. In fact, maybe you’ve tried to practice gratitude here and there, and it’s felt kinda nice.
I’m not going to yell at you now and tell you that you’ve been doing it all wrong, because hell, I think any time you can shift your mind away from all the bullshit of daily life to a place of positive thought, you’re winning.
So let’s figure out how we can take all the goodness of momentary gratitude thinking and compound that into something bigger and infinitely more powerful. If we want this to work its magic and actually change some brain chemistry, we’re going to have to put a little bit of elbow grease into it. Not a ton, don’t worry, but a tiny more effort than remembering to be thankful that Netflix exists.
I first heard about this technique from Jess Lively, immediately tried it, and was blown away. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
Here’s How You Have a Gratitude Explosion
Sit your ass down and pull out a pen and paper. Don’t type on the computer, there are more studies I’m too lazy to go find right now that show how much more powerful it is to hand write all this consciousness stuff.
Write out all the things you are grateful for, or at least for 3 full pages.
Say, what!? Yep, 3 pages. More if you want. You can add anything and everything in there as long as you actually feel a sense of gratitude for it: filtered water, a cushy bed, your perfect butt, that weird mug that cracks you up every morning, your beautiful, amazing dog, etc etc etc.
Why I was blown away: All that writing seemed daunting at first. I mean, I love to write, especially with a nummy pen and notebook, but freaking 3 full pages of this made me balk. How was I going to find 3 pages worth of whatever to be grateful for? I had things to worry about, yo.
And then I started writing. And then I couldn’t stop writing. And then I felt all glowy and happy and I was having a blast thinking about everything I was pleased about in my life. What the fuck! Who knew life was so awesome?
No, I wasn’t immediately transformed into eternally beatific Jeanette, but I felt pretty good for a while, to the point that I knew if I kept up some sort of gratitude journaling, I would feel the results.
Thoughts on Why a Gratitude Habit Works
I think the deal here is that you are immersing yourself so deeply into the experience that you can’t help but focus on the good in your life, away from the negative, and give yourself a little reset. It’s up to you to keep that reset going after you feel the subtle mind shift.
Now I’m not advocating for writing 3 pages a day on gratitude, (but you might transform into a gratitude fairy if you do), the studies show that even every week has some sort of positive effect on you. I ten to be a fan of short bursts of daily gratitude after I meditate or jotting down 1-3 things that you can actually sit and feel for a minute.
On top of that 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
Have you heard of The 5 Minute Journal? It’s been around for a while, and people rave about it as a way to actually remember to take your daily gratitude sit-down.