How Cultivating Gratitude Can Change Your Outlook This Summer
I was the in the front passenger seat. My younger kids were in the back.
I’m racking my brain for ideas to captivate their little minds and get them to stop.
Their favourite podcast.
I grab my phone.
And at that moment, this pops into my email box. Shared by a blogger who was encouraging her readers to complain less.
I was curious. Perfect, I thought. I’ll read this to them instead of the podcast and see what happens.
And what happened was awesome! My kids got quiet. Then, it led to a pretty interesting conversation.
And I made an important commitment.
But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Does it ever happen to you that an idea or a concept keeps coming up over and over in your life?
When this happens to me, I tend to pay attention. I have this belief that it is something that I need to learn or an area that I am meant grow in.
Lately, the idea of gratitude has been popping up in all sorts of different places for me. Like here and here.
This moment, in my car, was just another variation on the theme.
And so, out of curiosity, I dove into the brain science behind it (because I couldn’t just start practicing it, right?).
Practicing Gratitude Will Change Your Summer
There is some pretty amazing scientific evidence to support the benefits of gratitude, including the fact that practicing gratitude floods our brain with the feel good chemical dopamine.
Dopamine is like a delicious bit of chocolate, as far as your brain is concerned. It plays an important role in motivation and making you more likely to do something again.
The very act of noticing something to be thankful about releases a bit of dopamine. Your brain loves it and starts looking for more things to be grateful for.
On the flip side, staying stuck in negativity literally shrinks the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and intelligent thought (I didn’t know that either!)
Your brain also really likes being right. And so, if you expect that dinner with a friend will be lovely, your brain will begin to tune into parts of the evening to confirm this idea.
You guessed it, it works in reverse too. If you expect something is going to be boring, annoying or stressful… your brain will go to work looking for details to confirm that.
Research that points to more potential benefits of gratitude.
It can decrease pain, promote better sleep, relieve stress, decrease anxiety and depression and increase energy.
Decreased anxiety… increased energy…?
Yes, please. I obviously need some more gratitude in my life.
3 steps to cultivate gratitude in your life
1. Just like any other skill, cultivating gratitude takes practice. Be intentionally on the look out for things that you are grateful or thankful for. This is part of the new perspective you are working to develop.
2. Record it. Maybe you like taking photographs, or writing. Maybe you keep a journal or a calendar with notes. Take a second to document what you are grateful for. Here’s a PDF for you to print and use if you like. Recording it helps your brain reward itself with the feel good chemical serotonin.
3. Express it. Share your gratitude with God, the universe or send a thank you text a friend. Expressing gratitude allows you to reconnect with those thoughts and experiences andrelive those warm feelings again. The expression of gratitude triggers your brain to release dopamine, which in turn helps you to feel good and keep this new habit going.
Gratitude is not a magic cure all.
It won’t take away the hard stuff in life. Or solve all your problems.
Some days will still be really hard. Your kids will still whine.
But, what if cultivating gratitude was a piece of the puzzle. Wouldn’t it be worth it?
Back the decision I made in the car.
My intention is to to be more grateful this summer.
And so, with this in mind, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I feel privileged to be able to use this platform to encourage you and I hope in some small way it has been helpful.