Why is that, even when we know what’s good for us, we can’t bring ourselves to do it?
Last week, we discussed the benefits of gratitude on the mind and body — but I bet you still haven’t completed your Gratitude Statements, or you’ve forgotten them already. For those of you who are new this week, have you ever read about the astounding positive benefits of a certain food, but somehow, that food never made it into your regular routine? Why? What’s holding us back?
We discussed the mindset behind failed goal-setting in our first blog in the Gratitude Series, but it’s also important to anticipate and recognize the specific roadblocks that might fall in your path — so you’re prepared to jump right over them, without falling in the dirt. Here are two common roadblocks to creating a regular gratitude practice and how to overcome them.
Roadblock #1: We Focus On The Negatives
It’s an age-old question: Why do we often spend more time dwelling in the negatives than reveling in the positives? Unfortunately, it’s simply human nature to focus on the negatives. Sometimes, when we get carried away, it can even seem like we’d rather be chasing the things we don’t have than enjoying the things we do have.
To make matters worse, we often feel ourselves taking the good things for granted: someone who brings laughter to our world, the job that helps us pay the bills, the friend who lends a shoulder, or any other experience that makes our day a bit easier to get through. We might say thank you and show our appreciation, but our feeling of gratitude is short-lived, and we quickly put the shades back on and continue following the familiar pattern of complaints.
Roadblock #2: The Confirmation Bias
Our brains operate based on a tricky principle: “The Confirmation Bias.” We have a natural tendency to seek, interpret and remember information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Our beliefs then form our perceptions, and our perceptions shape our life and our world. Let’s break that down:
- We seek information that confirms our beliefs →
- Our beliefs form our perceptions →
- Our perceptions shape our lives →
- What we do with our lives changes the world.
The problem comes when we want to introduce a new practice, but our confirmation bias doesn’t recognize it as something of value, simply because it’s different or unfamiliar. So our brains aren’t encouraged to adopt it as a regular practice. If we let our confirmation bias run unchecked, it can actually close us off to new ideas and practices.
How To Overcome Your Roadblocks
We can, however, use the confirmation bias to our advantage by reprogramming it. And all you have to do is work backwards!
If you’re not happy with certain parts of your world or life — and you haven’t been for awhile — it may help to change your perception. To do that, you can shift your beliefs by focusing on new information, or gratitude. When we focus on what we’re thankful for (the positive) instead of the negative, we begin to open ourselves up to change — especially in the most troublesome areas of our lives!
Because gratitude changes our perception, the simple act of practicing it has the power to change our lives and our wellbeing. It allows us to be more optimistic about our own lives and empathetic toward others. Essentially, it helps us look for more positives in our lives and the world around us — and, usually, more positives come.
So the simple solution is to just practice gratitude anyway — even if you don’t believe in its power just yet. Let your brain show you that’s it possible, and then you’ll believe it! Don’t believe me? Dr. Alex Korb — a neuroscientist, author and columnist for Psychology Today — has published the proven effects of gratitude on the brain.
“Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle,” explains Dr. Alex Korb. “Your brain only has so much power to focus its attention. It cannot easily focus on both positive and negative stimuli. On top of that your brain loves to fall for the confirmation bias, it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. So once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. That’s how the virtuous cycle gets created.”
Bottom Line: A Simple Tool
Let’s put this theory into action! A Gratitude Journal works because it adjusts what we focus on to slowly change how we perceive situations. It engages the brain in a virtuous cycle and creates a powerful result: Once you start seeing things to be grateful for, your brain starts looking for more.
Like any skill, however, it takes practice. So start and KEEP UP with your Gratitude Journal. Don’t limit yourself to big things — pay attention to those small experiences that warm your heart.
Now, wouldn’t you rather feel better by assisting your bodies natural, healthy actions, allowing it to do what it’s supposed to do? I thought so! Then start a Gratitude Journal today — what do you have to lose?
Weekly Action: Gratitude Journal
- Get a notebook/journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can even use the same notebook from you used for the Weekly Action in our last blog.
- Each day, spend five minutes writing about what you’re grateful for.
- Don’t over-complicate it!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Aazam Irilian, is an artist with a mission to heal and the founder of heal the heart. She is a Transformation coach and helps others to uncover their blocks and overcome life challenges in order to move forward in life, personally and professionally. Her process of combining visualization and creativity, allows participants to relax and clear their mind, in order to identify solutions toward achieving best result for personal and professional growth.