The key to happiness is something that anyone can have at any time.
And it doesn’t even require a ton of work.
I’m talking about gratitude.
Gratitude is the practice of noticing and appreciating the positives in the world. Shifting the focus from what you don’t have to what you do have can have a profound influence on your emotional state, particularly happiness.
Heck, there’s a whole field of research—positive psychology, the science of happiness—devoted to studying the correlation between gratitude and happiness.
Because the truth is, when we pay attention to what we feel grateful for, we come into a positive frame of mind, connect to our true selves, and experience real and powerful fulfillment.
The benefits are truly expansive. Consider this:
Gratitude has been shown to lower risk of major depression, anxiety, phobia, and substance abuse.
Gratitude is linked to psychological well being, the sense that one’s life has meaning and that they are living their life to the fullest.
Gratitude bolsters self-worth and self-esteem. (When you realize how much people have done for you or how much you have accomplished, you feel more confident.)
Gratitude can unshackle you from toxic emotions and help you unlearn negative thought patterns. (When we hold onto negative thoughts about ourselves or about others, we fill our body with toxic feelings that result in physical and emotional trauma.)
Gratitude helps people cope with stress and trauma. The ability to appreciate life circumstances can be an adaptive coping method by which we positively reinterpret negative life experiences.
Research has also found that gratitude is strongly and positively correlated with ‘authentic’ living. This could mean that grateful people are more inclined to live lives that are true to themselves.
The benefits are undeniable. But the challenging part comes when we try to answer the question: How can we step into gratitude and thereby cultivate more happiness in life?
First of all, it’s important to understand gratitude orientation; basically, people feel and express gratitude in multiple ways in relation to time.
They can be gracious of their past (i.e. retrieving positive childhood memories).
They can be gracious for the present (i.e. taking time to be present).
They can be gracious for the future (i.e. maintaining a hopeful attitude).
I help my clients with all three, but the first is the foundation for the others. I help them break free from past trauma by helping them recode and rewire their minds, a practice that is greatly aided by gratitude.
Studies show that 50% of our happiness is determined by our genes or personalities and 40% is determined by the activities we do, whereas 10% depends upon our environment.
So that means if you grew up in a stressful or trauma-inducing environment (responsible for 10% of your happiness), you can change your mental inclination by focusing on your internal state and your habits (the 50% and 40%, respectively). That’s why I focus on deconstructing limiting beliefs in the subconscious to empower self-worth and aid in negating destructive habits.
Essentially, these numbers prove what we already know to be true: Our mind is so powerful it creates the world we live in. What we think is what we create. If we think negative thoughts, negative thoughts will be mirrored back to us. If we think positive thoughts, positive things will manifest.
Being grateful opens up a positive feeling in our physical body, which raises our vibrations to a level where stress and trauma are absent.
Gratitude is therefore a powerful healing energy of the mind that affects our actions and our environment.
So how do you harness that gratitude? The good news is, regardless of the inherent level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can learn and successfully cultivate further.
Practicing gratitude as you rewire your mind may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health and sustainable happiness over time.
Here are three things you can do to aid you as you rewire your mind, cultivate gratitude, and reconstruct your story:
1. Challenge your critical inner voice. We can start to feel more gratitude by identifying and deconstructing limiting beliefs. The critical inner voice is a thought process that hurts us in our daily lives by shaming us, and shame is not worthy of your best self.
2. Reinforce gratitude with patterns. Expressing more gratitude makes us feel more grateful. When we clear our minds, we have space to engage in acts that will help us connect to our feelings of gratitude. Repeated gestures create habits.
3. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to become present, which cultivates a spirit of gratitude. When we practice mindfulness and introspection, we allow our thoughts and feelings to move through us without taking over and derailing us.
Those are simple steps, but reconstructing your life is much more complicated than that. It requires developing an unstoppable mindset and flipping the script on your negative thought patterns. Brain rewiring can help you repair past hurt and anger and implement gracious and healing thought patterns for long lasting health and happiness.