One of the simplest ways to boost your resilience and improve your mood is to develop your ability to feel a sense of gratitude. Developing what Cicero referred to it as the mother of all virtues can have a large impact on your well-being.
Our minds are constantly being bombarded with negative perceptions. Those negative thoughts rule our emotional state. Accepting these thoughts and emotions lead to counterproductive patterns of action, which can hinder our ability to be our best.
As Pollyanna as it may sound we could all benefit form taking a step back and recognizing things in our life to be grateful for. Taking it one step further those who develop an attitude of gratitude have been shown to sleep better, be less reactive to stress, and have better relationships.
The mind takes its shape from what it holds onto, so take the time to mold yours. Start each night writing down three things that happened in your life that day that you were grateful for. Then take 30 seconds for each describing what made it stand out.
One of the keys to recovery breathing was to elicit positive emotions to help activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Using positive experiences, images, or memories can help to override human’s natural tendency towards negativity and stress.
Despite living in a diverse modern world full of technology and innovation peoples’ brains still use the same software as their hunter and gatherer ancestors. That software was designed to recognize threats e.g. predatory animals or other humans. Early humans that learned to avoid danger were more likely to live longer lives and thus more likely to pass on their genes.
Fast forward to today and none of you will leave the gym today fearing that a tiger or lion will jump out of a bush and eat you, but your brain’s vigilant security system will be on guard. Despite living in a world where most of our basic needs for food and shelter are more easily met people still devote to 2/3’s of scanning towards the negative. This hypervigilance and negativity seeking causes us to overestimate threats and underestimate resources and opportunities.
Thinking in this manner tilts your brain further in the direction of stress and the tendency towards fight-or-flight activation. For instance, most people are able to remember negative experiences from their past more easily than positive ones. Negative experiences are stored immediately in the brain so that we learn from the situation. Positive emotions do not automatically gain traction in our memory stores and often get lost before making it through our working memory to our stored memory.
The simple fix is to be able to generate positive emotions. Gratitude is one of the easiest and most successful positive emotions to deploy. Take the time to think of three things each day that you are grateful for. Take the time to think about “why” you are grateful for this. If you are able to hold the positive emotion in your attention for 30 seconds you will help it to transition to your stored memory. Over time this technique can literally change the structure of your brain, build optimism, and support well-being.
In addition the latest research suggests that a person can learn to override traumatic experiences through the use of positive emotions.