Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where each person shares around the dinner table what they are grateful for and why.
If you don’t have this tradition, you might consider it because research suggests gratitude activates our parasympathetic (rest and digest) system and positively impacts our brains:
- Improving general well-being,
- Increasing resilience,
- Strengthening social relationships,
- Facilitating more efficient sleep, and
- Reducing stress and depression.
Shawn Achor, a Harvard educated happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies, suggests the following tips for cultivating gratitude.
- Journal – Each day, journal about one meaningful experience by writing down three specific details about it. It’s called the doubler because the brain doubles the experience, and you get to relive the experience. And, according to Achor, you only need one positive memory to judge the overall day as meaningful!
- Express Gratitude – Each day find three new things you are grateful for and why. Achor calls this the 45–second disrupter, claiming the practice of spending 45–seconds (about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth) on what you are grateful for and why, three times a day, has the power to transform someone from being a low level pessimist to low level optimist in just 21 days! The key is to find new things (which retrains your brain to scan the environment for positive experiences) and the why (which attaches positive meaning to everyday experiences that could be overlooked or taken for granted).
- Write a Two Minute Note – Each day praise, recognize, or thank someone by writing them a short email note or text. Achor claims this is the most powerful habit.
For more information, I recommend listening to The 10% Happier Podcast #156: The Science Behind Gratitude with Shawn Achor and Dan Harris.