What if I told you that one two minute activity a day could literally change the trajectory of your life? Sound too good to be true? Based on over a decade of research, we now know that it’s actually quite possible. Science has taught us that our human brain becomes whatever we practice and if we practice this simple habit for a mere two minutes a day, it has been shown to have a tremendous impact on our health, happiness and overall well-being.
What is this magical activity? Gratitude. Now, before you start rolling eyes and thinking about how many times you’ve already heard this bear with me because you may not have heard about it in this way which makes all the difference in the world. Many people say, “I am already a really grateful person,” but they aren’t actually practicing gratitude. And for those who do practice it, many aren’t practicing it in the way that has been proven to literally rewire our brains and permanently boost our health and happiness.
Here is what Harvard researcher Shawn Achor discovered when he delved into the research around gratitude. Most people who have a daily gratitude practice are often grateful for the same things over and over again. I’m grateful for my health, my family and my job. We now know from research that this type of gratitude practice might offer a short term boost but fails to change us over the long term. What does? Coming up with three new things we are grateful for each day and stating why.
When we do this consistently, we literally train our brains to scan the world in a different way. Many of us don’t know this but we constantly scan for the negative without being aware of it. Meaning, our brains scan for threats and stresses opposed to scanning for positive opportunities that will help us move forward. This one simple exercise has the power to change that and increase our happiness baseline as well as improving all sorts of health outcomes. In one study, spouses who did this activity for three weeks reported finding each other more attractive. Why? Because their brains had become wired to focus on the positive (the warm smile) rather than the negative (the gray hairs).
This exercise can be done out loud, silently to yourself or by journaling. The things you are grateful for can be big or small. The important thing to remember is that they just need to be three new things each day and it is important to think about why you are grateful for these things. If you think you don’t have two more minutes to spare each day, then Shawn suggests that you try doing this exercise while brushing your teeth. If you live with other family members, another idea is to try doing this during meal time. You’ll be amazed at the insight it provides you into each other’s days and how enjoyable it is to listen to what other family members have to say.
Since I haven’t done my three gratitudes yet for the day, I’ll end by sharing them with all of you…
I am grateful for listening to my daughter play her guitar this morning because it brings me great joy to see her love of music continue to blossom.
I am grateful that the repair workers came to fix our roof because I know it won’t leak the next time we have a huge rain storm.
I am grateful that our dog jumped up on the bed for a cuddle this morning because it was a lovely way to start the day.