What is it? Why do it?
Research shows that people who are grateful by nature are happier than those who are not.
Gratitude is about appreciating the good things in your life.
For some, this might sound like a real challenge. Especially if you are experiencing mental health challenges such as depression or dealing with loss or trauma… Life might suck right now.
If you give yourself a little time, each day, to write down three things that you are grateful for. Over time, you’ll begin to see or feel a difference to your outlook on life.
I remember a client of mine saying that they didn’t see the point in doing it because all it would do was highlight how shit their life was at the time and how could they possibly find three things that they are grateful for.
I studied neuroscience as part of my degree, and I learnt how the brain works. I always find it useful to give clients some scientific facts and understanding when asking them to try something new. By explaining to my clients about neuroplasticity, it opened up a new doorway of hope for them. Once I’m able to share some scientific facts about how things work, people are much more open and willing to try.
Neuropathic pathways in the brain are in constant growth. When you learn and try something new, a new neuropathic pathway is created in your brain, and the more you do that thing, the stronger the neuropathway becomes.
Try to picture this for a moment…
You’re walking through the woods, a well-beaten and trodden path. You walk this route because it’s easy, it’s what you know. You always know where you’ll end up, and the path is always clear. However, when you get to the end, you feel the same, nothing has changed.
One day, you decide you want to change. So you take a different route. One where there is no clear way. Overgrown brambles and bushes. You trample the brambles and bushes, but you push through it. You get a little sore on the way, but you persevere and keep going. You come out into a new, unfamiliar place. Feeling contented and maybe a little happy for trying something new.
You go back again the next day, still, the brambles and bushes remain, but you keep on the new path. You go back every day and eventually, over time, that new pathway is clear and well-trodden. Your end place is a happy place. Things have changed, and a new pathway has been created.
This is just like your brain. The more you do that new thing, the stronger that pathway becomes and overtime, you won’t even have to think about it. It will be a part of who you are, a part of your subconscious brain.
By practising gratitude, your brain gets ‘happier’, and you begin to feel more contented with your life and in time, you will always be aware of the things in your life that you are can be grateful for. And when we are grateful, happiness follows. Gratitude = happiness.
You can start easily. I always like to do it just before bedtime. I find that by doing it before you rest and sleep, the last thoughts that you have are ones of joy and happiness. You can do it whenever you like, though, whatever is best for you.
There are a zillion gratitude journals on the market, but you don’t have to go that route if you don’t want. A piece of paper is fine if that’s all you can manage. If you use paper, keep it safe and in a place where it won’t get ruined. It is always nice to refer back to your gratitude lists. When things feel a bit muddy, get your list and remember and relive that feeling of gratitude.