Updated: Jun 25
Tapping into gratitude is a great venue towards raising "good hormones" in our body and rising our feeling of happiness.
At WAW we carefully give plenty of space and time in workshops and coaching engagement to identify and cultivate abundant reasons to be grateful... and happier!
Happy people live an average of seven years longer than their unhappy counterparts and enjoy a better quality of life. Happy people’s brains work better, their immune systems are stronger, they look younger, and they earn more money.
If you’ve always thought of yourself as a “glass half-empty” kind of person, the good news is that it’s possible to train your brain to be happier and reap its anti-aging benefits on a daily basis. You can use the innate power of your mind to be ageless. You see, our thoughts, emotions, and mindset powerfully influence the condition of our bodies.
Cutting-edge medical science (the field of psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI) has discovered that our thoughts and emotions are critical factors in making or breaking our physical health. Studies reveal that our emotions are not just in our heads—they’re transmitted almost instantaneously everywhere in our bodies by chemical messengers called neuropeptides. These chemical messengers are released with our every emotion and are rapidly picked up by our cells, directly affecting how our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems function.
“Negative” emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness adversely affect us, resulting in lowered resistance to disease, poor overall health, and cognitive decline. In contrast, “positive” emotions such as joy, happiness, and enthusiasm produce chemical messengers that affect us in positive ways, resulting in improved resistance to disease, enhanced brain function, and better overall health. The research proves it: feeling happy and optimistic leads to significant alterations in our physiology that contribute to us becoming more at every age.
We all want to live a happier life, so why not do what it takes to become more vital, energetic, and long-lived in the process?
Fortunately, doing what it takes is within our power. Neuroscientists have discovered that we can train our brains to be resiliently joyful regardless of outer circumstances. Scientists used to think that once a person reached adulthood, their brain was fairly well set in stone and there wasn’t much they could do to change it.
But new research is revealing exciting information about the brain’s neural plasticity (its ability to be changed): when you think, feel, and act in different ways, the brain changes and actually rewires itself. We’re not doomed to the same negative neural pathways and thus the same behaviors for our whole life.
Leading brain researcher Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin Center for Investigating Healthy Minds says, “Based on what we know of the plasticity of the brain, we can think of . . . happiness and compassion as skills that are no different from learning to play a musical instrument or tennis.”
When we change our thinking to support our happiness, the negative neural pathways shrink and the positive neural pathways widen. This widening makes it easier and more automatic to think positively and be happy now and in the future. We can train our brains to be happy! True happiness turns out to be a neurophysiological state of peace and well-being that isn’t dependent on external circumstances; rather, that inner state of happiness shapes our experience of the world.
The world is as we are.
Here are three practical tips for positively changing those neural pathways:
1. Pay attention to what you say to yourself and to others. The same event may prompt a flurry of detrimental inner conversation, or may be an opportunity to try a different narrative, that amplifies the perception of what is going on, and expands my range of choices, moving from helplessness to think and act with agency.
2. Count your blessings. Review the last twenty-four hours and make a list of events and experiences you are grateful for. Go ahead and “accentuate the positive”—it’s more than mere mood-making. Yesterday might not have been a particularly good day, but when you look for things you can be grateful for, you are likely to find positive occurrences that were overshadowed by the daily struggle.
Doing this daily is ideal. Make a list of at least five to ten things you are grateful for and keep it in a journal. You can include daily events, positive feelings about your children, your values, your faith, or an experience while walking in the park. Once every few weeks, pull out your journal and review all of the positives you have in your life.
3. Meditate. Meditation can put us on the fast track to happiness by increasing activity in those parts of the brain that are responsible for positive emotions. If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to consider adding it to your life. Look for a qualified instructor or just start small by sitting quietly and watching your breath or your thoughts for five to ten minutes each day and get ready for the positive results you’ll reap.
Isn’t it gratifying to know that we can dramatically influence our longevity and vitality by tending to our mindset and cultivating happiness? And it’s an inside job, not dependent on outside influences.
We have so much more power than we realize to create the life of our dreams.
As Samuel Johnson so eloquently stated:
"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance;
the wise man grows it under his feet."
Based on texts from Debra Poneman and Ronnie Newman