Gratitude As A Lifestyle, Not A Yearly Event

Today is one week prior to Thanksgiving 2014.  On Facebook, I see the same thing I see every year, people doing the 30 day thankfulness challenge.  I think that’s a great thing, I’m not belittling it.  But, I wonder what about the other 335 days left in the year?  What do we do to cultivate an attitude of gratitude all year round?  Why is it important?  How can we do this?  I’ll explore in the next couple of paragraphs.

Our brains, from cultural exposure or whatever reason, seem to be hardwired to focus on the junk in life.  We look for tabloid stories by default.  We get bummed out by one incident.  We remember much of the sad or stressful times.  Just the fact that our culture has issues with stress indicates we have struggles seeing the good in life.  So we need to take action steps daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  If we don’t, we are doomed to focus on the yucky stuff of life.  Believe me, I know it’s there, but that doesn’t mean we have to zero in on it.  When we do that, it creates a cascade of negative, health defeating physiological changes in our body.  Studies have shown that when we re-live a negative, depressing, bad event in our minds, the same physiological changes that our body underwent when we originally went through the event, occur again.  So, do you want negative hormones like the stress hormone cortisol running rampant in your body?  Or would you prefer feel good hormones like endorphins to dominate?  I’ll take door number 2 Monte!!  It’s vital for optimum health that we work to rewire our brains to see the good that is going on in life and be appreciative of it.

I recommend two simple actions to achieve this.  One is a gratitude journal. I do mine online using the Evernote app.  Every night before I go to bed, the last thing I do is I review my day and type up a minimum of 3 things that I am grateful for from that day (sometimes I’m an overachiever and do 4 or 5). I also write (type) what about that event makes me grateful. In that way I re-live the experience in  my own head. It’s a great way to end the day and a perfect mindset to go to sleep with.  The other step I take is to set my alarm 10 minutes earlier than I need.  I hit the snooze button, but then I go into what I call “Think and Thank” time. I spend the next 10 minutes thinking about things I’m grateful for, sometimes remember those things from the night before.  But the main goal is that I have the right attitude when my feet hit the floor 10 minutes later.

Try those on for size.  Make it a New Year’s Resolution for 2015.  But if you want it to be a habit by 2015, you better start now so that in 6 weeks when January 1, 2015 rolls around, it’s already an installed habit!

Until next time…Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

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