An Attitude of Gratitude
An Attitude of Gratitude is a phrase I first heard from AA folks some 30 odd years ago. Now I might say something like an attitude of gratitude for brain fitness?
Those folks attending one of six weekly meetings in Bloomington, Illinois in the early 1980's used to combat the feeling of resentment, or fear, or resentment, or depression, or even hangover, by thinking of something they had to be grateful for, which immediately changed the feeling in their bodies.
Oftentimes, even in the very early days of sobriety, life was significantly better sober than drunk, and one could say they were grateful with a feeling of relief and a thought of gratitude.
The hard learned trick though was to repeat the gratitude thoughts frequently, until the feeling and thought became the new feeling and cognitive baseline.
Now we know that frequent repetition of thoughts literally changes the brain through its wonderful capacity for neuroplasticity.
Sharon Begley wrote about how frequent repetition of a Buddhist compassion meditation changed the brains of the meditators in her wonderful book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.
Now scientists are using empirical tools to evaluate what most of us have intuitively known all along.
Here is a quote from some research done in 2003 involving keeping a gratitude journal.
"The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.
McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings." I remember reading in the Grapevine, a monthly magazine from the AA general services, about creating a gratitude tree, using a little five and dime store Christmas decoration tree and attaching notes to it when I was thinking gratefully, and to note how fast the tree was covered. We were to keep it in the middle of the table and look at it so we were reminded often of the things we had to be grateful for.
At that time, I did not know that I was practicing Positive Psychology, but I was, and I did not know that I was using a brain capacity called neuroplasticity, nor did I know that I was enhancing another brain capacity called neurogenesis, which is the brain's ability to grow new brain cells on a daily basis.
So what is this brain fitness that gratitude impacts? If you wish to get a very clear picture of brain fitness, then take a look at this e-book, called Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan. The book is written for those of who want to age well, and is written in layperson language. Evans and Burghardt are writers to be grateful for.
They lay out for us the pillars of brain fitness, which include physical exercise, nutrition, including the requisite daily dose of omega 3 fatty acid, stress management, sleep, and novel learning experiences like learning a new instrument, language, or using computerized brain fitness programs.
I really like to use one tool in particular, a biofeedback tool from the HearthMath folks because it ties together three very important parts of Positive Psychology, gratitude, a heart based life emphasizing my strengths, and brain fitness.
The tool is heart rate variability biofeedback and the tool is called emWave. I have used it personally and professionally for eleven years.
Curious about brain fitness programs and an attitude of gratitude?
Well, using HeartMath opens the higher perceptual centers in the brain, which prepares them for learning which inspires neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, which makes it easier to remember your daily gratitude journal.
I do the computerized brain fitness programs because I do not have time for a new instrument now, or time to learn a new language, but I definitely want my brain growning new brain cells and creating more connections.
Novel learning experiences do that for me, which makes my brain a little stronger in preparation for the changes that come with aging.
I use these three and love them. (The first one increases your IQ).
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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