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How to practice gratitude
The brain is a complicated thing that can run on several different levels at the same time. While we are consciously thinking, or talking, or doing chores, there is a busy back of house part of our brains that is searching and logging and classifying information like a very efficient and eager librarian.
It is this busy filing part of the brain that takes orders that we may not even be aware we have given, and puts together information to support them. This is why if we are considering buying something, or holidaying somewhere, we will suddenly notice that information, photos, and reviews about it seem to be everywhere. It is the librarian part of your brain rushing to help.
Beginning a Gratitude Practice is a way of putting this part of the brain to good use. By setting a particular time to write down, or to tell someone, about good things that have happened you are actively ordering the busy brain to keep a look out for good things as you go about your day.
You are programming the brain to focus on the good.
As is often the case when something is simple, there are various pieces of advice about how you should put together a gratitude practice. How many times a week, how many things to be grateful for, how to write it down, what time of day…
I actually don’t think it matters very much how you do it, just that you do it. You certainly don’t need to spend money on a special book.
There are, as I see it, only three rules:
- Make it regular so that the brain knows it is expected to be compiling the list of things to be grateful for.
- Get it out of your head – write it down, tell someone – as we used to – round the table, even record it as an audio file on your phone.
- Be descriptive. A generic ‘I’m grateful for my family’ type of list won’t work as well as ‘I’m grateful having time to watch how happy the puppy was, romping about with her new ball.’
Some people like to make a gratitude list in the morning to set them up for the day, I prefer early evening as my brain then is collating happy stuff all day, some find a daily list becomes a chore and do it weekly or even monthly.
The main thing is that in whatever for you do it, it works. Having a formal gratitude practice is the simplest, most effective, thing you can do to improve personal wellbeing.