Written by Allison Grossberg, WLLC 2015-2016
My days often begin with the annoyingly high pitched ringing of my alarm clock jolting me from sleep. I stumble out of a cozy bed only to realize that I’m late. I hurry to put my contacts in and then choke down a protein bar while frantically shoving textbooks and papers into my backpack. I mutter a complaint to myself, and rush to class.
I am not alone in starting my day off in this hurried, and negative manner. How much better would life be if I slowed down, stopped complaining, and instead realized how grateful I am to be waking up warm and well rested, and ready to start a day full of possibility? Tim Ferris talks about just this in his podcast episode “The Magic of Mindfulness: Complain Less, Appreciate More, and Live a Better Life.” He explains that often our word choice determines our thought choice, and recommends going 21 days without uttering complaints or using negative language. He suggests that ultimately this process leads to an increase in both mindfulness and gratefulness; two practices that have been given an increasing amount of attention in the past several years.
In fact, the article entitled, “The Five-Minute Journal” describes many ways in which gratitude and positivity are important. The article states that, “It’s been proven over and over again that shifting your focus to the positive can dramatically improve your happiness.” Tim Ferris’s complaint elimination strategy is one way a person could combat negative thinking and increase gratitude, however, “The Five-Minute Journal” article suggests keeping a short daily gratitude journal, which seems to be an even more positively focused process that is both engaging and rewarding. Furthermore, the article proves the effectiveness of such a journal by reporting that, “A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to not just an increased sense of well-being but also better sleep, willingness to accept change and also help and lower symptoms of physical pain,” and additionally that, “there’s another study that illustrates the immediate effectiveness of gratitude. As it turns out, gratitude could be the ultimate magic pill for ‘happiness’ (drugs notwithstanding). In a 2008 study, subjects experiencing gratitude were studied under fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and it was found that they were influencing their hypothalamus in real-time.
The hypothalamus is the teeny part of your brain that directly influences sleep, eating and stress among an array of other important functions. Gratitude also stimulates the part of the brain associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine – the ‘do it again’ chemical – which is responsible for the creation of new learning pathways.”
So it would seem that starting my mornings off by being grateful for a cozy bed, a delicious granola bar, and a fresh day might actually be the key to having a fulfilling and happy life.