The Gratitude Game: Retrain Your Brain

Our brains are wired to notice the negative and recall
struggle and pain.  This is an
evolutionary trait dating back to the caveman days when our lives depended
on remembering where the poisonous berries were or where the bears lived.  The world is a different place now, and
while it’s important to be aware of danger, we have more freedom to notice what is
good and to live with gratitude.  But
it’s a muscle that’s underworked and needs strengthening.  When
you want to build strength in your physical body, you regularly go
to the gym or to yoga, right?  Likewise,
when you want to be more grateful (i.e. more positive), you dedicate time and
energy towards strengthening that part of your brain.  Like everything else in life, it’s a
practice.

A gratitude practice retrains our brains so we begin to
naturally notice what is good, rather than harping on what is bad. We can rewire our thinking to be more positive.  Here
are 5 tips to build a gratitude practice:

1. Start Small.  Especially if you’re feeling
low, start with things you usually take for granted.  If you are reading
this right now, you have access to the internet.  How cool is that?!? A
world wide web of connection and information!  Or how about gratitude
for the parts of your body that work- your feet and legs that move you around,
your hands with opposable thumbs!  Or, most of us have a roof over
our head and a place to lay our head down at night.  These things are
actually quite astonishing. Expand your gratitude from there to people in your
life that support you and make life sweet.  Focus on all the things that are going well!  Of course you can acknowledge there are
things you wish were different, but spend time noticing and appreciating what
is already great.

2. Keep Track.  Not only does this make
gratitude a ritual, but it roots gratitude into us.  Make a list of
everything you feel grateful for, and expand the list daily. Write down 5
things in the morning and 5 things in the evening you are grateful for, for one
week and notice how this impacts the way you feel in your life.

3. Make it a Habit.  Wake up and go to bed
practicing gratitude.  Rather than checking your phone first thing, check
your gratitude list and add to it.  Practice gratitude while brushing your
teeth.  Even better, every time you
reach for your phone through the day, let that be a reminder to add another
thing to the gratitude list.  Find a system and do it everyday.  Make
it part of your routine.

4. Find the Teacher in All Things.  In
yoga we end each class by bowing to the teacher in all things, not just the
good things.  Our biggest lessons come from the most challenging situations
in our lives.  This is the way we grow and learn to become better
people.  Find ways to be grateful for the challenges and your whole life
will change.

5. Feel It.  When you practice gratitude
really allow yourself to feel it.  During challenging moments notice if
you tend to hold onto pain.  It
can feel comforting or justified.  And it may be justified.  (And you
may need some time to be there with your emotions.)  But staying there is
stubborn.  Make the most of your gratitude practice by allowing yourself
to feel it.   

How does gratitude impact how you see the world? The process of
training your brain may take commitment and effort, but it gets easier the more
you do it!  And the rewards are worth it.  Give it a try and let us know how it goes!

 

Posted on: September 6th, 2013 No Comments

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