Expressing Gratitude

Expressing gratitude is like eating vegetables.  We know it’s good for us, but most of us don’t do it nearly as much as we should.  It’s much easier to envy what others have than take pride in our own accomplishments.  This is the result of the “grass is always greener” syndrome.  We see the accolades of friends, colleagues, and peers and think.. why couldn’t I do something cool like that?

Chances are you have it much better than you give yourself credit for.  Internet, food, clean water, shelter over your head, family, friends, loved ones.  What price can you put on functioning legs and arms.  A new car?  A dream vacation?  How about a loving family and friends.  A new promotion?  A fancy job description?  More often than not, we have it much better than we give ourselves credit for.


What Expressing Gratitude More Often Will Do For You

When you express gratitude, that very same thing is more likely to occur again in your experiences.

First and foremost, your brain immediately activates regions of the brain associated with dopamine.  The famous neutransmitter is more than just a feel good chemical, though, but also largely a part of our decision making process as well.  It’s equally as important in initiating action in a very pavlovian sense.  It’s the brains way of saying, wow, that felt good!  Do that more often.

Secondly, that very same thing is more likely to occur again and again in your experiences.  You create a new level of expectation.  This is a large part of why the “I am” statement is so powerful.  It can lead someone to convince themselves that they are bad at math, or not a people person.  In psychology terms, this is known as confirmation bias—where we look for instances and experiences to confirm, and reinforce our expectations.

So by expressing gratitude, not only do you get to relish in the instant feel-good warmth from having those thoughts, but also you’re more likely to recognize those instantiations in the future by adding to your level of expectation.  This paves a very positive way into increasing optimisim and happiness.

This cannot be faked or forced, of course.  Your subconscious knows if you’re bullshitting yourself and expressing gratitude over something you don’t actually feel.  Man, I’m so thankful to be such a wealthy millionaire with playboy bunnies running around my space ship.  It doesn’t exactly work like that…

But on a smaller scale, it can be kickstartered into effect, even if you feel in a particular crappy mood.  Lots of studies have shown that even a forced smile can greatly influence to chemical balances in your brain.  Emotions are more than just a thing that resides in your head.  Your body and limbs can create a feedback loop, for better or worse depending on how you conduct your posture.

Want to be the happiest guy in the room at the next party?  Before going in, give thanks and think about all the things you are grateful for.  Instead of focusing on what can I take from event, what new connections or romances can I potentially find—all of which are external things—shift your focus shifts to, wow, I feel really blessed and excited that this is a part of my life.  Crack a big smile, even if it feels a bit forced.

The irony is that the former is more likely to occur as a result by taking the subsequent approach.  High energy is a magnetic force.  Who doesn’t want to be around charismatic people?


How To Start Expressing More Gratitude

1) Make it the first thing you do in the morning.  After waking up, the first thing I do is smile (releases more serotonin, more elevated mood), record my dream in a dream journal, and then give thanks—this can be for a blessing of another day, some of the things I did the night before, or elements in my life that I am thrilled to be able to experience.

Some mornings I forget to do it, but I don’t beat myself up when I do.  Instead, I recognize that it is a thought process I intend to have.  And I make a conscious choice to do so more often.  Small consistant applied efforts provide massive compounding results over time.  Our biological software is very plastic in its programming.

2) Create a reminder.  This can be a poster in your room, a written sticky note, a painting, or a piece of jewelry.  For me, it’s my Brasil bracelet.  It sits right next to my Madrid one I use as a dream checker bracelet, and something that pops into my field of vision throughout the day.  By creating a reminder, it pulls you back to the comfort and enjoyment of that expressive thought.  If you find constantly having to think of things you are grateful for too taxing, just use it as a reminder to smile.  You’d be amazed at how much of a massive impact this can have on elevating your mood.

3) Be more animated in your expression of gratitude.  This means lifting your hands in triumph, fist pumping, dancing and jumping about, shouting or vocalizing what you’re grateful for, or hugging yourself.  It may feel a bit goofy initially, but what you are doing is creating psychological changes in your body’s composition.  The benefits of expressing gratitude are magnified 10x because you’re letting every atom in your being take part in declaring who you are.  As explained in a famous TED talk, taking a conscious effort in your physiological structure can greatly enhance your perceived confidence and perception of self.  These same concepts apply with expressing gratitude.

These 3 strategies alone can produce drastic changes in your life.  But again, don’t beat yourself up if you forget.  Create lasting habits with small changes, and take resoluteness in the fact that you can get better with each passing day.


A Note to Self

To my future self, whenever coming back to re-read old posts, let this serve as another reminder to your loving family that has supported and cared for you over the years.  A reconciliation of your incredible friends, and exorbitant amount of happiness they’ve brought into your life.  To the incredible treasure trove of memories and moments you’ve experienced in different corners of the globe.

And finally, a reflection to this single moment.  The writing of this blog post in a personal hand-held journal.  Sitting on the beach on an Indonesian shoreline.  Witnessing an incredible sunset drift away behind endless casting waves.  A surreal location teeming with life.  All the local families conversing in a language half recognized.  To the new friends and faces walking alongside you in this part of your journey.  My oh my, what a lucky handsome devil you really are.

desert point