It isn’t that happy people become thankful people. Rather, thankful people become happy people. Being thankful is a key ingredient in living a life of happiness.
The sad truth is that the brain tends to feed off of negativity. Our minds seek out and latches onto negativity much quicker, easier, and for longer duration’s of time than it does with the good and positive aspects of a situation. Researcher and psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson comments that the negative sticks to the brain like Velcro. It latches on almost immediately, as in, quicker than three seconds. Neurons in the brain fire instantly, creating a negativity chain, a highway for negative thoughts to drive down without obstruction. This causes us to view our environment, people, and experiences with a negative bias. And unfortunately, our society tends to breed and cultivate negative environment, people, and experiences.
However, it takes roughly 20-30 seconds for the brain to process a positive and good experience, moment, or aspect. Far more effort is required for our brains to build up a positive neural network. Think of it this way: Imagine a tabata interval (20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest) on the assault bike. Ever notice how long the work portion feels, and how fast the rest period goes? It takes your brain the entirety of the work portion to catalog one positive item and it catalogs two or three negatives during your rest period.
So, how do we rewire and re-train our brain to be positive-biased rather than negative-biased? At CFN, our mission is to create a community of people who are becoming their happiest, healthiest and best selves. We do this through group fitness classes, personal training, Northland Nutrition and specialty courses. In addition, we are now offering CFN Wellness. CFN Wellness is centered on cultivating your happiest and best self through an intentional, educational and personally-tailored partnership between client and wellness coach.
Here are three ways I (Jeff from CFN Wellness) recommend shifting our focus from the negative to the positive:
Seek the positive.
Life gives us various kinds of experiences, each one laced with something good. However, we often don’t pay attention to the good. We overlook it and find the negative. Ever noticed a “but” person?
“It’s beautiful weather today, BUT, tomorrow it’s supposed to rain.”
“My power cleans felt good, BUT, my double unders were terrible.”
“I love my new car, BUT, it’s turning radius isn’t like my old car.”
Even when we have something great going for us, we lean towards the negative. Be a “but” person in the other direction, or an “and” kind of person.
“My car battery died, BUT, it’s awesome I have a car, the funds for a new battery, and friends who can help.”
Specify the positive
Often times, we’ll be grateful for the good in general. This is a great start. However, rather than simply stating “I’m thankful for my family”, we can become more specific, and name one person and three specific and distinct aspects about them, or things they do that we’re glad for.
Savor the positive
Spend significant time savoring the good and beautiful aspects of life. If we are giving thanks for something, give your brain the appropriate thirty seconds to catalog it, digest it, and soak it into your neural networks. Perhaps:
Take three deep breaths before your meal as you give thanks for the abundance of nourishing food in front of you, and all the people who cooperatively toiled to bring it your table
Put 30 seconds on your clock, and actually fill the entire time finding the good in a specific situation
Slow it down. Keep a gratitude journal in which we have to slow down and write out what the good is, or speak it to another person. Thirty seconds is easier to fill when we’re writing it down or chatting about it. When we just think through it in our minds, thirty seconds quickly becomes a casual ten seconds and we move on.
Practicing gratitude boosts our immune system, increases our concentration, lowers stress within the body, fosters healthier relationships and gives us a happier framing of the life we live.
How will you practice gratitude today?