And gratitude is a choice.
I can’t emphasise this enough.
Being grateful when everything in your mind is screaming that wrong has been done to you, and that you should bear your grudge FOREVER isn’t an easy choice.
But it is a choice. One worth making, too.
Psychologist Rick Hanson said, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”
It doesn’t have to be like this though.
Because, for years, research has shown that, over time, your experiences literally reshape your brain and change your nervous system – for better and for worse.
So, you have to think about gratitude a bit like electricity.
When you buy green energy from the market, it doesn’t mean that the wind or solar energy gets directly pumped into your house.
Instead, the electricity you buy gets added to the collective pool of energy that’s then distributed among all households.
The more customers who buy green energy, the larger the percentage of green energy in the pool becomes.
This means that tangible results take time to materialise.
And this is how it is with gratitude.
It takes time AND volume before it becomes a significant force in your life. You have to reach that tipping point before it gets easier.
Even after you gain critical mass and it starts feeling more like rolling downhill than paddling up, you still have to give little pushes to maintain velocity.
The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle your daily life with reminders that keep you going.
Think of orbital mechanics and gravitational slingshots.
A gravity assist manoeuvre, as it’s also known, is when you use the relative movement and gravity of a planet or other astronomical object to alter the path and speed of your spacecraft.
It reduces the expense and saves on fuel with rockets.
And you can bring down the cognitive cost it takes your brain to wrench itself out of that negativity bias by using a slingshot. Or five.
The story of Clara Morabito, as told by Robert Emmons, is a great example of this.
She’s the one behind the poem I Choose:
I choose to be happy I choose to be grateful I choose to be caring And always be thoughtfulI choose to be well I choose to be fine I choose to be healthy All of the timeI choose to be patient I choose to be strong I choose to be calm All the day long
Her life was completely transformed by these simple words that she used as a daily mantra.
Despite both mental health and physical setbacks, she credited her optimistic outlook on life to her daily recitation of these words.
“Although she cannot take two steps without her walker, her energy is boundless,” Emmons wrote of her. “Her doctor was so impressed that he posted a framed copy of the poem in his examining room and gives out copies to patients.”
If someone depending on a walker can choose gratitude, so can you.
Think about what you can do, to pepper your day with gratitude slingshots, and then start doing it.
- How can you choose gratitude throughout the day?
- What holds you back from doing it?
- Write a list of 5 people you’re grateful to have in your life.