Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone. G.B. Stern
There’s an old saying that as long as you have your health you should be grateful. But life has so much to be grateful for that I feel compelled to share with you this first of “Three Things To Do For A Better Life”. This is the act of remembering and reminding myself that I am a success because of the things that make me happy. When I am happy my brain releases dopamine which causes pleasant sensations throughout my body and a smile on my face. Once I have a little dopamine rush I want a little more and a little more and a little more. I want to feel the pleasantness all the time. When dopamine floods the system it turns on all learning centers in the brain. Dopamine allows me to adapt to the world in a different way. With this knowledge in hand it has become possible for me to train my brain to become more positive.
People all over the world want to feel this pleasantness too. So much so that too many humans seek out scary and dangerous methods for managing dopamine lifts. I want to introduce you to a little exercise that you can do every day and not just for the recommended 21 days but for every day for the rest of your life. That is exercising your brain to focus on the positive in your life, releasing dopamine and feeling happy as a result. This is truly amazing stuff and I do not know why it is not on the evening news and in all other media. Drug cartels around the world could start going out of business tomorrow if everyone practiced a little positive reinforcement. Governments and political leaders would fail with their attempts to stoke fear and submission due to the realizations of the uselessness of their efforts once people realized that they control their happiness anytime anywhere. People everywhere would quickly start living better once green pieces of paper are replaced with Heaven’s only currency, love. A dream you say. How dare I question 10,000 years of humanity’s progress. Nature is cruel and that is the nature of the world you say. Well I am only suggesting that a little positive reinforcement could lead to a larger movement of really living a better life. Here’s how.
I like to watch the talks on Ted.com because they are better than watching the news. I was viewing TED.com one day and came across an amazing presentation by Shawn Achor author of The Happiness Advantage. In his presentation Mr. Achor proposed the radical idea that I could rewire and train my brain to look for the abundant positiveness in the world that never seems to make it to main stream media.
As a result of my efforts Mr. Achor promised I would be rewarded with a dopamine release. I am middle aged and by right skeptical of such stuff but also wise enough to know to be a better listener than I was when I was young. Mr. Achor proposed that if I just spent 2 minutes a day for 21 days working on one of the following activities I could be rewarded. He gave some suggestions on what to do to trigger happiness and explained the reasons why the dopamine would be released. It was fascinating because it made sense, I had heard such things before but they were never explained in a scientific manner as Mr. Achor did. He insisted that if I wrote three gratitudes, journaled, meditated, exercised (two minutes wouldn’t be enough), or conducted a daily random act of kindness that dopamine would flow, I would feel happiness and my life would be better. It all sounded too good to be true but my role in life as a leader requires me to continuously improve myself and work with others for self improvement and I must keep an open mind and try new things to fulfill those responsibilities.
I have a commute in the morning that requires a bicycle, a bus and a train. It is an hour from my front door to my office door and I leave the driving up to others. But there are still too many cars just at the one major intersection I cross and I start the day in a very defensive mode. In one sense that is great because primitive safety and survival instincts are still alive and well within me. However, being on the defensive at 6 AM every morning makes for a less than positive outlook. Then there are the crowds of people to move between in order to get a seat on the bus or train and sometimes waiting for Metro in the rain and cold can really suck because that is when they seem to slow the system down. It’s not nearly as crowded as Japan and everyone is civilized but there is a lot of crime on Metro and being aware of my surroundings should never be taken for granted. It is worse if I drive because then I have to contend with other drivers and they are much less friendly than the people I meet on public transportation. So either way I could easily get to work with a brain programmed to be defensive and on the lookout for negativity.
This happens to everyone unless they show up in a positive frame of mind. I guess that is why we all ask each other “How are you?” even though we do not have the time to really find out. It must be some ancient human conditioning effect that demands we greet others and put them in a positive frame of mind without thinking about it. Most people reply ”I’m fine and you?”. This is positive and automatically gets the brain to say something positive “I’m fine”. It reaffirms people that in the grand scheme of things someone else has asked about their particular existence to which they can say they are glad to be a part of it. A person in a bad mood could be on the way to their office and when greeted with a “Good morning. How are you?” our culture requires them to say something nice which helps to motivate the positiveness of the brain. It’s like we want to give each other a dopamine lift by making them feel good and letting them know you feel good too. But of course there will be some people who have dark clouds over them and will not reply or say something nice about their existence or yours or anyone else’s. With a little training however there is hope.
Defensiveness and negativity do not make a good combination for being a productive member of society let alone for the job I do. If my brain is in a positive mode I perform better than I do with neutral or negative emotions. When I am positive my intelligence, creativity and energy all rise to higher levels and it is infectious amongst the people I associate with. It has been proven that a positive brain is 31% more productive. Studies are showing that you can rewire yourself to be happier by doing happy things. A better brain for me allows for better success at my jobs, superior productivity, great ability to handle adversity and greater productivity. Most importantly, if I have a better brain and I am happy I am also more fun to be with.
The science has been theorized and tested and found to be sound. Doing good things triggers dopamine releases. My body likes dopamine and so does yours. So much so that I do not know about you but I would like to feel good more often and as a result I seek out good things to do to trigger that feel good release. Thus, I decided to take on the activity of writing three things for which I am grateful each day for 21 days and as soon as I tried it I was hooked. The reason I love this exercise is because it trains my brain to scan the world for the positive not the negative. Since I watched Shawn Achor’s TED.com presentation I began listing my three daily gratitudes in a little book on the bus ride. I have been doing this much longer than 21 days and I have yet to run out of things to write my gratitudes. I never repeat them and it humbles me to know they are currently over 350 things for which my gratitude has been asserted and I have only been doing this for about 15 months.
That amazes me because it is so easy to wake up, turn on the news and or get stuck in traffic and then be disappointed in the whole thing. That never has to happen again. The act of writing the gratitudes does more than just release a little dopamine to make you happy and help you live longer. It helps to motivate you to want to share your gratitude and make others happy. For that is part of why you are on planet earth.
My experiment with writing three gratitudes a day has turned into a regular routine for me versus prayer but it is very similar to prayer. With this exercise you seek out the positive things in life which is also the aim of prayer. The specific plan mentioned in the video is to write down three things that you are grateful for, once per day, for 21 days in a row. That will begin the self-reinforcing training that can get you hooked on being happy.
Here’s How: For the next 21 days list three gratitudes a day without repeating any. Go ahead, write down three things you are grateful for. Think about what makes you happy. If this is difficult then that is an indication you need this exercise. Try starting with the Grateful Dead if nothing comes to mind. You are going to train your brain to look for the positive. Keep the gratitudes in a little notebook making them as long or as short as necessary. Do not skip any days. If you like this exercise then you don’t have to stop after the 21st day. Keep going like I have. Hell, go ahead make a blog about it. You will be surprised by what happens next.
If this exercise is not for you then try one of these (do for 21 days to start):
- Keep a journal: Everyday write about a positive experience over the past 24 hours. This will allow your brain to relive the experience.
- Get in shape: Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior and care of your body matters.
- Meditate: Overcome the rush of the daily routine you have built. This allows the brain to focus one thing or task at hand or nothing at all (the hardest and my favorite).
- Conduct a daily random act of kindness: Do something nice for someone and in the way they want. Make the world go around a little easier by spreading smiles.
- Raise honey bees and give away some of the honey that the bees make but be sure they have enough for winter.
If you have decided this is not for you, it won’t work, it is working great, or you are getting stuck sharing will help to get others involved in a truly positive outcome. I can be contacted at TonyTeolis@ToDoListHome.com That’s it for today now go and make someone else and yourself happy. Good luck!
- Three Things To Do For A Better Life For Free
- EzineArticles link
- Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work