Imagine if the pharmaceutical industry had developed a new drug that could:
Enhance the quality of sleep.
Improve relationships with loved ones.
Unfortunately for the pharmaceutical industry, this panacea is yet to exist in capsule form. Fortunately for you, these benefits and more can be achieved simply by reframing your thoughts.
The neuroscience is clear: practicing gratitude has profound health + wellness benefits, both mental and physical. Of course, like any skill, gratitude requires practice. Here, I make two recommendations to integrate gratitude into your daily routine: communicate your gratitude and push entitlement from your mind. Daily repetition over days and weeks will adjust the way you view the world and produce a happier, healthier life--all without taking medication!
1. Communicate your gratitude
- Counting blessings
- Journaling or writing letters
- Talking in person or over the phone
- Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat
- Acts of gratitude
Which will produce a more profound gratitude: silently thinking about a loved one or writing a letter of appreciation to a loved one? Communication assumes two forms: internal and external. A thought remains within the confines of the mind whereas an action requires translating a thought into coordinated movement. For instance, translating thoughts of gratitude into writing requires fine movements of the hands and translating thoughts of gratitude into speech requires movement of the lips and tongue. Pairing thoughts of gratitude with coordinated actions of the motor cortex creates stronger synaptic connections.
Don't just write a letter, mail it! Mailing your letter would likely evoke thoughts of gratitude within the recipient, thereby creating a powerful pay-it-forward, ripple effect of gratitude.
But, utilizing a plume and parchment seems rather archaic in the fast-paced, demanding environs of NYC. Practically speaking, how can you translate gratitude from thoughts to actions on a daily basis? Text your mother, Snapchat you best friend, call your husband, buy a bouquet for your secretary, Skype with your sister, take your co-worker to lunch, buy a gift for your housekeeper. Communicating your gratitude through actions is powerful and facilitates gratitude integration.
Do more than feel grateful; communicate gratitude daily until thoughts of gratitude permeate your process of thinking.
2. Push entitlement from your mind
Why isn't dinner ready?
Why won't he text me back?
Why can't I find my keys?
Why is my life so difficult?
Do thoughts of why invade your consciousness? Do you operate as if the universe should actively facilitate every action of your day? And when something doesn't go according to plan, do you scream in exasperation: Why is the universe against me today?
I'm about to serve you some Copernicus-realness; brace yourself. The human brain operates as if it were the protagonist on the universal stage. Unfortunately for your frontal cortex, this telenovela of existence has no protagonist. You are not at the center of the universe. In fact, the universe is likely indifferent to your very existence. Despite our desire for order, we live in a world of ever increasing entropy. Shed your anthropocentric lens and refocus using gratitude.
Entitlement is the unruly cousin of gratitude. Entitlement invites expectation and expectation invites disappointment and disappointment invites anger and anger invites resentment. What a vicious chain of sentiment.
As important as it is to communicate gratitude on a daily basis, it is equally important to gently rebuff thoughts of entitlement from your mind. The next time you are accosted by a frustrating thought of why, push this thought away from your consciousness. Instead, recall your relative insignificance and apply a gratitude filter to your current situation. The world owes you nothing, the universe is indifferent to your being. Any success, any favor should be welcomed with gracious arms.
Readily accessible to sentient beings, gratitude is a powerful tool to improve health + wellness. Gratitude can be produced at any time and place. Simply stop and ask yourself: what does my current situation offer me that I can be appreciative of? Then go one step further: communicate this gratitude. As you hone the practice of gratitude, remain cognizant of expectations that creep into your mind. Refuse this entitlement and shift your focus back to gratitude. Gratitude has tremendous power to enhance the mind and body. All it takes is practice.