Yesterday I had the privilege of delivering a sixty-minute Emotional Intelligence training to a corporate group. I must say it was fun BUT I was a bit shocked. In the training, I shared with the group that our brains default to the negative–this is called the negativity bias. Humans have evolved this way because we had to find a way to survive so our brains actively seek out and find “dangers” and things that could go wrong. In order to balance out our brains and increase our well-being, we must learn to counter-balance this tendency to think on the dark side with active positivity.
During the training, we did some interactive exercises so that people could begin to experience what practicing positivity looked like. One of those activities was to practice gratitude. I asked the 37 participants, “How many of you practice gratitude regularly?”
Guess how many did? NONE. One person slightly raised her hands and said to everyone once in a while she’d take a few minutes for gratitude.
But, the entire group was missing out on a simple daily practice that would help them to feel better! After asking the questions we did an exercise where for 2 minutes in pairs they focused on taking turns and telling one another what they were grateful for. As we debriefed from the experience many in the room said they felt their energy rise and their bodies become warm as they thought of all the good things in their lives. And, some reported that it felt really hard to come up with all the good because they rarely focus on it.
What if more of us took just 5 minutes a day to write a gratitude list? What if we actively began to train our brains to seek the good and find it? Our brains are powerful, under-trained tools that we can leverage to increase our well-being. It feels hard when thinking in a new way because you are literally firing up new neural pathways in the brain that may never have been used or may not have been used in a long time. If you push through the discomfort and stay determined in your practice of gratitude, you will find that it becomes easier and easier to notice the gifts your life has offered you.
With daily practice, you can begin to build your positivity muscles. Yes, it may feel hard–learning any new skill does, right? Those who persist will begin to stimulate their mind, body, and spirit to feel refreshed and better throughout their day. Isn’t that what you’d like? To actually feel well more often? I encourage you to commit to even 1 minute a day of gratitude. For the first week, do 1 minute. The next week, 2 minutes. Build up gradually and slowly. Think of how you might build it naturally into your daily routine.
Could you speak your gratitude list aloud while showering in the morning? Could you turn off the radio on your way to work and for 1 minute verbalize all the good in your life? Could you keep a gratitude journal by your bed and at the end of every day before you go to sleep write a list of all the good things you experienced? Could you engage your family members in the process and take a few minutes for gratitude over dinner? (Leveraging the question — What was good about your day today?)
Imagine if more of us saw the good and felt better about our lives….what ripple effect might come about in humanity? Please feel free to ask questions here if you have them… I’m passionate about positivity because I know how much better my life has become by building my mental muscles to regularly seek and find the good!
I've been working with business and government leaders for 20+ years as a Senior Executive Coach (PCC, ICF) and Leadership Development and Positive Psychology Consultant. I help leaders apply positive psychology to awaken to their highest potential and leave a lasting positive impact in their own unique way. Learn More
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