Building the Gratitude Muscle
The brain can be likened to a muscle, and we all know that the more we use a muscle, the more it grows. Unlike your biceps, however, the brain can grow in many different directions and not all growth is positive. In the field of Neuroscience there is a common theory known as Hebbs law. Hebbs law postulates that "neurons that fire together wire together". When we have a thought, either positive or negative, neurons are firing in a specific pattern in the brain. The more we think certain thoughts the more neural connections are made. The firing of the neurons leads to the wiring of those neurons together forming neural pathways. Imagine walking through a forest for the first time, there is no visible trail. However, if you walk that same route every day for a month, the path will be laid, it will be visible and much easier to walk on than forging a brand new trail. This is true for our brains as well.
When we think thoughts of gratitude we are building and strengthening our gratitude "muscle". We will begin to see life through a lens of gratitude instead of problems and lack. The more we are aware of our thoughts, and redirect them in towards gratitude, the more often we will find ourselves in that state of mind.
The effects of gratitude can be experienced in the body, mind and spirit. Physical health seems to be effected with fewer aches, pains and a greater interest in healthy activities. The mind benefits with fewer negative and toxic emotions, fewer symptoms of depression and increased overall happiness. The spirit is elevated with empathy, compassion and a sense of connection and improved relationships.
As we approach our annual holiday of Thanksgiving and gratitude, I invite you to contemplate what you are grateful for. Begin today by creating a gratitude list. Get out a pen and paper or open an app on your phone and jot down 5 things you are grateful for in this moment. Gratitude lists are a powerful exercise for re-framing the attention and focusing on all the things that are right in your world. Practice this list daily for the next 21 days and notice any changes that arise in your perceptions.