Gratitude Practiced Daily Becomes Habit

With the Thanksgiving holiday recently behind us, I’m trying to make more of a conscious effort to take time each day to reflect on things in my life I’m grateful for. This is something that we did with the clients each night at the residential treatment program I previously worked at, but it’s the first time I’m taking a stab at incorporating it into my own life.

grateful

The reason, you ask? Here’s a logical one: Professor Will Shepherd recently cited a “Ted Talk” in which psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the formula most people use to govern their lives: hard work leads to success which leads to happiness, is inherently backwards. Research suggests that happier brains are more creative and productive than those individuals with negative self-talk. So, we ought to be thinking: how can we be happier and more fulfilled, leading us to achieve a higher level of success and productivity in our lives, leading to a higher level of happiness and fulfillment? And the cycle continues.

At the end of the 12-minute presentation (and I encourage you to watch the whole thing, especially if you’re a psychology nerd like me), Achor offers some suggestions for how this can feasibly be done. For 21 days in a row, consciously acknowledge and write down (that part is important) 3 events, things, or people, you interacted with or participated in that you are grateful for. How does it work? In simplest terms, given that our brains are plastic, we are able to reprogram our thinking by simply practicing thinking in certain different ways. By acknowledging gratitude, your brain actually rewires itself to scan the world for the positive.

So, here are 3 things I am thankful for today:

  • My work unit. I share an office with 4 of the kindest, wittiest, and well-informed individuals. I am constantly impressed by their positive outlook on the world and how they can take any mundane task and make it fun.
  • My job. I am biased, but I think I have one of the most rewarding graduate assistantships around. I get to talk about a program, university, and city I love every single day.
  • My friend, Tony. Tony works with me in the GPO (also a blogger here) and has become one of my closest confidants in the program. He is so open-minded and always challenges me in my thinking when I most need it. He’s always looking out for me and my best interests. Tony rocks.

This exercise is already helping me put things in perspective as classes ramp up around the end of the semester when projects are due and exams are scheduled. I encourage everyone to take time each day to be grateful. Do it for yourself!