Though a lot of my work focuses on the science and physiology of resilience, training your mind is just as critical. This week I’ve been working with someone who is infectiously positive, curious, funny and driven. Every time I work with him I’m so thankful for my job and the fact that I get to meet and work with so many amazing people. I’m insanely grateful and recognize on a daily basis how fortunate I am. It just so happens I also read a journal article this week published in Emotion stating “appreciating the positive moments of daily life can boost overall life satisfaction and build resilience in the face of adversity”. (2009; 9 (3), 361–68)
Stopping for a moment to acknowledge the great things in our lives makes us happier and more resilient. A moment is all it takes. Simple.
In spite of this, how many of us can get into the habit of focusing on what isn’t right? What we don’t have? Developing tunnel vision that spotlights everything negative going on in our lives?
I read an interview done with Christopher Reeves after his debilitating accident. The interviewer asked him if he ever got down and frustrated with his situation and how he handled it if he did. Christopher’s response was that he and is wife would look out into the community for someone who had it worse than he did, and then go help them. It put things into perspective. He still had so many positive things in his life and helping others was a way of reminding himself how grateful he needed to be for what he had.
Just like daily physical training and proper nutrition impact resiliency, so do being grateful and appreciative. Create a daily gratefulness training program. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a “shrine” in your home that is a reflection of things you are grateful for. Mine is still a work in progress, but consists of a Buddha statue (spiritual practice), a picture of my family (love/family) and a bowl containing coins from many the places I’ve had the privilege to visit throughout the world (travel and insight) as well as some beautiful colored dried beans (food and nourishment for my body and health). I see this shrine every time I walk in the door of our home and it reminds me of the important things I’m blessed to have.
- Spend 60 seconds after the alarm goes off in the morning making a mental list of all the things you’re grateful for. Start your day off thinking about the positive things in your life and start the day off on an optimistic note. It’s amazing how starting the day this way impacts everything you do.
- Have a gratitude journal. Daily or weekly write down the things you’re grateful for – both small and large. The delicious cup of coffee you had that morning, the fact there was no traffic on your drive to work, friends who care about you, your health, the roof over your head….
What ideas do you have? How do you practice gratitude? I’d be grateful if you’d share.