Last blog, I wrote about being a walking joy spot and the value of gratitude glasses. Today, we are discussing what I call "the joy switch."
How many times a day do you say thank you? Do you say it because it's a built-in, automatic response, or do you say it because you mean it?
Think of the last time you really expressed sincere appreciation for someone. How did you feel? Imagine if you felt like that all the time!
As children, we are taught to say "thank you" when someone does something for us or gives us something, but we are not taught to make gratitude a way of life.
It's amazing how gratitude can transform our mood, our actions, and our general well being. It really is "the joy switch!"
Focusing on gratitude consciously on a regular basis can help rewire our brain. We know that repetition lays down new pathways in the brain -- it's called neuroplasticity. Essentially, it means that if we practice a new pattern of thinking or behaving often enough, the brain will set up new pathways for those behaviors. The more we practice, the more automatic and easier these activities become. In other words, the common phrase: "Neurons that fire together, wire together."
If your mood needs a lift all you have to do is flip your joy switch on -- that is, consciously find something for which to be grateful and focus on it!
Here are some strategies that can help rewire your brain for gratitude.
Wake up and have a ritual of immediately finding two things for which to be grateful. The fact that you woke up is a good number one! That you are relatively healthy, you have a job, you have people who love you or like you... these are just a few ideas to trigger your thinking.
There are so many things to be grateful for before you even leave the house; if I listed all the possibilities we'd be here for days!
Revise these things before you go to bed as well. Walk around for some inspiration. And when you get into your pyjamas, take time to be grateful for your body. Be grateful that it works the way it does.
Gratitude is a great way to start and finish the day!
Some people enjoy work -- they like their boss, their colleagues and the intellectual stimulation. However, if you don't like your work or the people with whom you work, actively look for things for which to be grateful.
When I lived in Dallas, our pastor told a story of research done on 100 people who were considered to be very successful in their personal and professional lives. Zig Ziglar also references this in his book See You at the Top. All available information on these people was examined in an effort to find out what they had in common. They were stunned by their conclusion: The common denominator with all these people was not education or socioeconomic status or parental wealth, but that they were all "good finders."
This term was invented to describe how these very successful people looked at the world. Good finders look only for what is good in others and vocally affirm them explicitly and gratefully. We can actively look for the good in everything and everyone, even ourselves; it's just a matter of perception!
It's about choosing to be grateful. Or not. Bad things do happen, but we can choose how we want to look at them.
Have you ever taken a picture to the framing store to select a mount and frame? I am always amazed at how a different frame can transform a painting. We can do the same thing with words to change our perceptions. For example, someone says: "We'll never have this done in time." Instead of taking their fear or anxiety on board and feeling your stress and pressure mount, reframe their words. Say, "This is a great chance to see how much we can achieve under pressure. What an opportunity!"
If you utter or think the words, "We'll never have this done in time," your body-mind immediately goes into stress mode. Stress chemicals pour out and pump through you, making you less efficient and affecting your thinking and capacity to be clear and creative. This causes you to lose sight of the bigger picture.
On the other hand, if you choose to reframe the situation through different words, you have a completely different mind set and "body set" -- you have different chemicals racing around your body -- ones that will help you focus and do the job! Being grateful makes for a much more productive work platform than being miserable.
In the World Outside
Think of any normal activity you might do -- like driving. You might be driving home or picking the kids up after school and wham! You're stuck in traffic. It's frustrating.
One day I was stuck in a heavy traffic jam. I had skillfully passed 87 cars, changed lanes 140 times, sworn at 50 red lights, and narrowly missed killing several pedestrians, only to stop at a red light and see one of the slow driving -- no, crawling -- "idiots" that I had passed 15 minutes ago pull up beside me.
When I finally got home I worked on myself till I was grateful. Not only had I arrived home safely, but I had also learned patience, perseverance, tolerance and the capacity to separate the cars around me from the traffic problem (after all, they were stuck in it too).
I also learned to realize that what I was thinking and how I was behaving were increasing my frustration more than anything. It wasn't an easy lesson, but whenever we point a finger at another, there are three fingers pointing back at us.
No matter how much I wanted to, I could not blame anyone else for my reaction.
Sometimes we have to look really hard to find something for which to be thankful, but it's worth the effort. It's better for your nervous system, for those around you, for relationships and generally for life!
Remember... It's All About Perception
If you really are just too busy to mentally remind yourself to be grateful, then physically remind yourself. Go out and find a pair of children's plastic sunglasses or visit amandagore.com and see our heart-shaped gratitude glasses.
Create your own "joy switch" out of sparkling stuff! You can make it as creative as you like!
If you're worried people in the office or your spouse might start to think you're a complete space cadet because you're walking around with gratitude glasses on all day or carrying a joy switch, then just keep them nearby as a reminder!
So whenever something or someone is pulling you down, put on your gratitude glasses (real or imaginary) and flip your joy switch on. Make the choice.
You can perceive a situation or a person as a gift for which you are grateful or as a curse that ruins your moments.
You can be grateful to have a warm body lying next to you in bed or grateful to have the whole bed to yourself, or grateful to have the promotion at work or grateful you don't have to deal with more responsibility.
With gratitude, everything looks good!
We can take on the world with gratitude, turning obstacles into potential joy switches and burdens into gifts. With the right perspective, the ordinary can become extraordinary, and we can live in joy!
For more by Amanda Gore, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.