The fact that you’re reading this right now on a computer screen or a smartphone or tablet, just goes to show that you have so, so much to be grateful for. When you think about how 663 million people in developing nations go without access to clean drinking water, it’s easy to acknowledge your relative privilege. But how long does that usually last? Why is it so easy to forget how many things we really do have going for us?
Our brains are rigged to take things for granted. We tend to adapt to our comforts and privileges and after a while, we come to expect them. On an evolutionary level, our brains are set up to keep us alive. That means we are naturally more alert to threats and danger than we are to how good we have it. Fear and scarcity is given higher priority by default. Happiness is not exactly essential for our survival.
The good news is we don’t have to live our lives on default. We don’t have to remain on automatic pilot. We can choose what is important to focus on. And the more we focus on what is good, the more good we see. And the more good we see, the more grateful we are. Eventually, a positive feedback loop is created.
But when our brains are wired for survival and scarcity, it takes a special kind of effort to get it re-wired for gratitude and abundance. When our brains automatically categorize information as non-essential, it gets overlooked and taken for granted. Mindfulness allows us to interrupt that automatic process and we can look at things with new eyes again. When we approach our experience in this way, with openness and curiosity, it is easy to appreciate it. But it does take effort.
You have to choose to see things in this way. And it isn’t positive thinking either. Mindfulness doesn’t require a positive spin on your experience in order to appreciate it. It’s just a way of noticing what is there and knowing that whatever it is, it’s enough. As the Buddhist proverb goes:
Enough is a feast.
Imagine feeling whole and complete without needing to achieve or acquire anything extra.
So how do we make this effort? It’s not new, but it works. Gratitude journaling. Get yourself a journal or notebook and a pen. Or, if you’re already in the habit of jotting notes into your smartphone, just create a new folder in your Notes app and call it Gratitude Journal. Starting TODAY, and that is really your biggest hurdle, write down 5 things you are grateful for. You can do it anytime of day, but do it for 21 days. It takes 21 days to develop a habit. You’ll be surprised that you will never run out of things to be grateful for, because the more you look, the more you’ll find.
Oro Valley Psychotherapy
10311 N Renard Pl
Oro Valley, AZ 85737