I leaned back in my chair and sighed.
It’s been a long week.
I wasn't sure if I could muster the strength to write in my gratitude journal tonight.
I closed my eyes and almost turned out the light to go to sleep. Then that little voice inside my head said…
Just write one thing you are grateful for. Don't break your streak.
So I jotted down:
- I'm grateful for my soft pillow.
This is the first step. It's easy to list things your are grateful for.
Then I added to it.
- I'm grateful for my soft pillow because it supports my head so I don't get neck cramps while I sleep.
- I'm grateful for the metal mug that keeps my drink cool throughout the night, so I can take a sip of cool water whenever I want.
- I'm grateful that I can kiss my wife before bed and tell her I love her because I truly do.
I closed my eyes again and I could feel the difference inside of me. There was this warm feeling that helped me relax. I turned off my light and went to bed.
I woke up the next day with a little pep in my step. Taking just one minute to write down what I was grateful for helped snap me out of my malaise.
My grumpy feelings don't last as long as they used to because of my gratitude practice. The intense focus over the past few years has been the single best tool to improve my mindset.
I always start with appreciating things in my surroundings. They are easiest to enjoy because it's right in front of me.
When I explain the Mindset First process, it starts with surrounding gratitude. What things are you grateful for right now?
Then just look, listen, smell, and feel around and start writing them down.
Focus on your “what” and your “why” of the thing.
Your “what” is the first step. I suggest doing this for a few days to warm up your brain to the idea. The second step is the why. This deepens the experience.
It should look something like this:
- I'm grateful for my home (the what) because of the safety it provides my family (the why).
When you add your why you are infusing gratitude into your brain synapses.
The cool part of doing this is that it helps you with your health.
One study found that participants who wrote down three good things each day for a week were happier and less depressed at each of the one-month, three-month and six-month follow-ups.1
A gratitude practice supports brain health. Too often we forget how important this is until we feel lethargic and run down.
When you focus on surrounding gratitude you are strengthening the synapses in your brain so you make it easier to focus on the good things you do have instead of what you don't. The biggest hindrance to my happiness usually occurs because I expect my life to be different. When I focus on gratitude the moment always exceeds my expectations.
The more you can ground yourself by letting go of expectations and enjoying the present moment, the more resilient your mind will become. Next time you make a mistake or a project doesn't go well, you have a practice to lean on to help you release your thoughts of not meeting expectations.
This is the start of building a more grateful mindset. You are actually able to enjoy your failures just a little bit. It’s this small shift in your mindset that plants seeds for bigger shifts. This takes practice. That’s why surrounding gratitude is the best place to start. You’re building your neural network.
As Donald Hebb likes to say, “When neurons fire together, they wire together.” Mental activity actually creates new neural structures.
You’ll be able to tap into these neural structures the next time someone criticizes you or you make a mistake. This is the amazing part of a gratitude practice. You build your neural network and make yourself happier. It’s a win-win on many levels.
If you are interested, join our next free 30-Day Bring Gratitude Challenge. It’ll help strengthen your mindset. When you join us, you’ll get email updates and a private Facebook group. If you have any questions, I’ll be available 7 days a week during this time. My goal is to get the smartest and most caring people together to create an amazing community, so we can help each other learn from our mistakes and build a life that we love.
Seligman, M.E.P., T.A. Steen, N. Park, and C. Peterson. “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.” American Psychologist 60, no. 5 (July/August 2005): 410-421.