Happiness and the Role Gratitude Plays

So it turns out our brains aren’t wired to see the “glass half full.” Instead there is the negativity bias. Thousands of years back it gave humans the advantage by training the brain to see the danger signs and avoid harm or death. Now it means we are hardwired to notice and store negative experiences more than positive ones. Negative and positive comments are actually processed in different hemispheres of the brain and the negative ones typically require more processing and attention setting the stage for even further rumination. There are some strategies to overcome this bias. Taking the time daily to look for something that makes you smile, laugh or cultivates feelings of love or gratitude and taking a photo. Look at the photo at the end of the day, and again at the end of the week all together. This process trans the brain to watch for moments to capture, refocusing one’s attention on the positive, meaningful parts of the day and away from stress and negativity.

Another technique is a centering exercise designed to shift thinking from “I’ll be happy once all the great things I want to happen, happen,” which pushes happiness into the future rather than noticing what is currently pleasant and positive in one’s life. Mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to increase activity in the left part of the frontal region or the brain the area responsible for positive emotions like optimism. Ralph De La Rosa, meditation teacher, therapist and author of The Monkey is the Messenger, suggests the the “5-3-1-1” practice first thing in the morning. While in bed, take five slow, steady, conscious breaths. Think of three things you’re grateful for. Smile one real smile. Set one intention for your day. Developing simple but positive habits like this not only set a clear tone for the day, help you be more present and optimistic it may also help boost energy levels and work performance. When you focus on the present good, you’re actually more likely to excel!