“Any emotion, any behavior can turn into a habit,” said psychologist Dr. Dan Gottlieb in speaking to me about his positive attitude. So basically we can increase the frequency of our positive feelings by practicing them. Studies have shown that acting the way we’d like to feel will actually help bring on the feeling.
I was very struck by Dr. Dan’s feelings of gratitude despite his circumstances. That is a huge take-away and lesson for us all – that no matter what, one can always find things to be thankful for. How do we develop this attitude of gratitude so that it can become a habit; so that it can become an integral part of our personality and outlook? For it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of negativity and complaints.
There are exercises in gratitude where we can actually do things to increase and pump up our muscle of appreciation.
Three Blessings– created by Dr. Martin Seligman, father of positive psychology. Every night before bed, write down three things you’re grateful for. It can be as simple as “I relaxed with a mug of soothing tea.” It’s not just about the big things like “I landed a job today”. It’s more often about the small things or the things we take for granted like, “I felt good today.”
It’s a great way to end the day and go to sleep, with the pleasing items in the forefront of our brain.
Meditation – sit quietly for a few minutes every day and reflect upon what’s going right in your life. It’s not the formal meditation of “emptying” the mind, but rather focusing on the good. It’s an even bigger plus doing it in the morning before starting the day. Gets the juices going in that positive frame of mind.
Gratitude Journal – similar to 3 Blessings, but it encompasses more writing. But again, we’re only writing the positives. (Regular journals/diaries are for the venting and unloading of all feelings.)
Thank you letters – write to people who have been a positive force in your life and express your sincere appreciation. Words have tremendous impact, both to the recipient as well as the writer. Words sink into the” kishkes” (guts) and can be very therapeutic. Expressing gratitude brings it to the surface.
The more we practice being grateful, the more it will take root in ourselves and be easier to access when we really need to call upon it during the rough times. And in easier times, all the more reason to look out through the lens of gratitude.
How do you incorporate gratitude and appreciation? What will you do to increase your habit of gratitude?