Discover more from Radically Genuine
Gratitude and Attitude
Life Changing Habits Series #2
Lately, I've been completely absorbed in the quest to discover quick and efficient daily routines that can significantly boost both my mental and physical well-being. The intention behind these habits is to present individuals with actionable and effective strategies, each backed by a solid foundation of empirical evidence. By integrating these habits into daily life, people can proactively contribute to the enhancement of their mental health in substantial and sustainable ways. I will be sprinkling in these articles in the coming months.
You can access my first article here
Nurturing our mental well-being parallels the care we invest in our physical health. There are no shortcuts, no instant remedies, and certainly no magical pills. It requires the deliberate integration of actionable steps into your daily life, fostering an attitude that not only promotes joy and vitality but also sustains positive well-being.
In a world fueled by fear and uncertainty, it's impossible to ignore the undeniable truth: we are wired for unhappiness. Deep within the recesses of our survival brain lies a mechanism developed over countless generations, designed to safeguard our physical and emotional well-being. This mechanism, though essential for our survival, can also become a double-edged sword.
It's no secret that human beings are prone to experiencing stress and anxiety. Whether it's the constant worry about an uncertain future, the thrill of sharing juicy stories about others, or the spine-chilling adrenaline rush from watching horror movies, we find ourselves drawn to these experiences like moths to a flame.
The media, with its insidious manipulation of our primal instincts, takes advantage of this wiring, stoking the fires of our fear and anxiety for their own gain. Like a cunning puppet master, it exploits these deep-seated mechanisms to incite fear in us, feeding us a constant diet of terrifying news and stories that keep us on edge.
In this chaotic era we inhabit, we are venturing into unknown realms. Our existence is intertwined with extraordinary technological advancements, showered with an overwhelming abundance of knowledge like never before seen. However, rather than being a positive force, it frequently operates as a spark igniting fear, spreading discord, and unleashing a tsunami of detrimental sentiments. It is through this lens that we witness the alarming decline of our collective mental well-being, as the relentless assault of divisive fear propaganda amplifies our struggles and exacerbates our anxieties. Feeling at peace and connected to each other has never been more challenging.
As a Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologist, I am captivated by the diversity of human experiences. I am drawn to the resilience of those who overcome trauma and tragedy, transforming their lives with purpose, meaning, and joy. Conversely, I am intrigued by those who remain trapped in self-destructive patterns, believing they are destined for a life of misery. Instead of fixating on uncontrollable problems, I channel my focus towards finding effective responses to empower individuals in their lives. What can we control?
Consider the captivating tale of a wise grandfather imparting the wisdom of inner conflicts to his young kin through a metaphor of battling wolves. According to Wikipedia, the story is a Christian parable, into which Indigenous peoples of the Americas have been included as characters, but penned by non-Indigenous writers.
The Story of Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, "My son, the battle is between two "wolves" inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Biases toward threat, often referred to as the "negativity bias," can significantly harm mental health. This cognitive tendency represents our brain's inclination to give more attention and significance to negative information, such as potential threats or dangers, compared to positive or neutral information. While this bias may have evolved as a survival mechanism, in today's complex and often non-life-threatening environments, it can contribute to heightened stress, anxiety, and even depression. Constantly perceiving the world through a lens of threat can lead to chronic rumination, increased cortisol levels, and a sense of constant unease. Over time, this negative cognitive pattern can erode mental well-being, disrupt interpersonal relationships, and hinder one's ability to find joy and contentment in everyday life.
In the modern world, our attention has become a truly precious commodity. The crucial query before us is this: where do we aspire to direct the bulk of our invaluable resources? What you choose to center your attention on holds profound significance—a matter of great consequence!
Cultivating Gratitude is a Life Changing Habit
How can we nurture an abundance of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith in our lives? What if I shared that this is a conscious decision within your grasp? And that there exists a daily practice capable of fostering a profound and enduring positive influence on our well-being? One that can infuse your life with deeper significance and serve as an immunity shield against the detrimental effects of navigating a demanding and stressful world.
Gratitude practice has been the subject of numerous studies, and research has shown that it can have a positive impact on health and well-being. Here are some key findings from research on gratitude:
Mental Health: Several studies have demonstrated that regular gratitude practice is associated with improved mental health outcomes.
Physical Health: Gratitude has also been linked to better physical health.
Sleep: Gratitude practice has been shown to improve sleep quality.
Stress Reduction: Gratitude practice can help reduce stress.
Relationships: Gratitude can enhance relationships and social well-being.
Happiness: Numerous studies have shown that gratitude is strongly linked to increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
Longevity: Some research suggests that gratitude may even have an impact on longevity. A study published in Personality and Individual Differences in 2013 found that individuals with a more grateful disposition tended to have healthier lifestyles and, as a result, lived longer.
Immediate Impact on Critical Health Markers: Gratitude practice decreases inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) almost immediately
“Little drops of water make the mighty ocean
― Julia Carney
I've discovered that even minor adjustments can lead to remarkable enhancements. Setting aside just 5-10 minutes in the morning can yield substantial improvements that reverberate throughout the entire day, shaping your attitude and outlook.
Gratitude is a profound emotion that transcends mere surface-level expressions. It is not a matter of merely going through the motions with a "fake it till you make it" approach. To truly harness the benefits of gratitude, both giving and receiving thanks must stem from a place of genuine sincerity and authenticity.
Authentic gratitude is about recognizing and appreciating the real value and impact of the people, experiences, or circumstances in our lives. It's a heartfelt acknowledgment of the positive elements, no matter how small, and a sincere reflection of the blessings we receive.
Below, I present accessible protocols that can be seamlessly incorporated into your routine for meaningful benefits.
The Huberman Gratitude Protocol
For an exceptionally effective, pragmatic, and scientifically validated gratitude practice, neuroscientist and renowned podcast host Andrew Huberman recommends:
Ground the practice in a narrative meaning—a story of receiving or perceiving genuine gratitude.
Write down three or four simple bullet points that can serve as salient reminders of that story—states of mind before and after the receiving of gratitude, and any other elements that lend emotional weight or tone to the story, so that it is embedded in your memory.
Read off these bullet points as a cue to your nervous system of this sense of gratitude.
Then, for 1-5 minutes feel into that genuine experience of having received gratitude or observed it.
In terms of frequency, a good rule of thumb is to practice this three times a week, at any time of day.
Step 1: Choose a Journal or Notebook: Select a physical journal or a digital note-taking app where you can record your daily expressions of gratitude.
Step 2: Set a Regular Time: Pick a specific time each day to write in your gratitude journal. Many people find that either first thing in the morning or just before bed works well.
Step 3: The most potent form of gratitude practice is one in which you receive thanks – for example, hearing a kind letter written about you or thanks that have been provided for your acts of service.
Additionally, you can identify things you are grateful for. These can be simple or profound, and they can vary from day to day. They might be related to your relationships, experiences, personal achievements, or even small everyday joys.
Step 4: Be Specific and Reflect: For each thing you list, try to be specific and reflect on the details of the experience.. Describe how it made you feel or why it had a positive impact on your life.
Step 5: Make It a Habit: Consistency is key. Aim to write in your gratitude journal every day, even on challenging days when it might be harder to find things to be grateful for. Over time, this practice can help shift your focus toward gratitude and positivity.
Step 6: Review and Reflect: Periodically, take a moment to review your past entries. Reflect on the patterns you see and how your perspective on gratitude may have evolved.
Ah, the beauty of synergy! Now, let's merge two transformative habits into a time-saving ritual. Recall that invigorating 15-30 minute morning stroll under the gentle sun's embrace as a life changing habit? Now, seize that golden opportunity to bask in gratitude for the precious blessings life has bestowed upon you. Engage your senses and immerse yourself in the often-overlooked facets of your existence, those unnoticed threads woven into the fabric of your daily life. Consider the gift of something as fundamental as the freedom to walk, a privilege we often take for granted until it is lost or hindered.
Consider the amount of time we waste with meaningless distractions and endless scrolling of social media. What if we shifted time some of that time to these actionable steps to cultivate a shift in attention and subsequently a shift in consciousness.
The declining state of mental health in our society is closely intertwined with factors such as declining physical health, diminished connection with nature, increasing social isolation, and our persistent reliance on technology to escape from genuine relationships. None of these challenges can be adequately addressed through a simple pill or quick solution.
I challenge all my readers to engage in a 30 day challenge that includes morning sun exposure and daily gratitude practice. Reflect on the changes and comment. More life changing habits in the months ahead.
Small steps can help people make big changes to achieve what they really desire. That wish isn't going to go anywhere unless you do something about it. Every day, just do one thing. At the end of six months, you'll be somewhere.
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