Practising gratitude can change your life and your brain. Let me tell you how:
Have you heard of your Reticular Activating System (RAS)? I hadn’t until I went on my coaching course…but I knew the effect. I bet you have experienced it too. Can you think of a time when you have been considering an option…say buying a new car. Imagine you know which car you want to buy, or you have just bought it and suddenly, you see the same make, model and colour everywhere. That is your RAS working.
Your RAS mediates your perceptive awareness and acts as a filter for the information your brain receives. It helps your brain to register what matters most to you i.e. what is relevant to you based on your values, needs, interests and goals. (Hence seeing the car you intend to buy everywhere – it’s on your mind and important to you right now).
What has this got to do with gratitude?
When you experience and/or practice gratitude or appreciation you reinforce the RAS to filter the information around you more efficiently which basically means that you see and experience more of the things that matter to you. So in this scenario you would notice more and more grateful experiences or things to be grateful for.
This is why noticing what you are grateful for helps change your attitude (and your brain). The RAS doesn’t distinguish between positive and negative thoughts, it knows that what you are giving attention to right now is what is important to you.
How do you practice gratitude?
- Commit. It might feel like a chore some days or it might make you feel silly but taking even a minute a day to note down what you are grateful for will build your ability to notice what you are grateful for exponentially. More importantly it will improve your thinking and your feeling about your day. Do it daily and find a routine that works for you. Do it even when you don’t want to…it still makes a difference.
- Let the words come naturally. Find a quiet moment and ask yourself: “what am I grateful for?” then let your thoughts flood your mind as your RAS does all the hard work.
- Write it down. Writing things down helps you focus on what you are doing as it is very difficult to think about something else whilst you are writing something down. The act of writing something down also helps you remember and gives you something to look back on if you forget. I would recommend a journal so you use a pen/paper but I discovered this brilliant site called Humanize the other day which prompts you and sends your gratitude list back to you.
- Be present. As you reflect upon your day and see what you are grateful for you will find it easier to be grateful in the moment too. You might find yourself saying it to yourself when you sip a warm hot chocolate. Or perhaps telling someone else you are grateful for something they are doing/have done. As you move through your day with an awareness of being grateful then it is easier when you come to write it all down later on.
- Keep going. When you see the results of your gratitude practice you may get a bit complacent…keep going, it just gets better and better.
Finally, remember that gratitude takes incredible self-awareness. There is no clear measurement of progress. It is about the journey and not a singular goal.
As always, I would love to hear how you are getting on so comment below or tag me on social media to share the gratitude.