Cultivate A Gratitude Attitude
Live Life as a Leader
65,000 thoughts per day. That is what each of us have. Give or take, 65,000 thoughts per day.
Ninety-five percent of these thoughts are unconscious. They occur automatically, without us being aware of them.
Isn’t that rather astounding? Think about it… so many thoughts and we are oblivious to the most of them.
Here’s another fact. Our unconscious brain predisposes us to focus on the negative and to stay there – recycling these thoughts over and over. This phenomena is called a negative cognitive bias. Short of long, its just a lot of repetitive negative thoughts.
I know from my own personal experience, I have spent a lot of time here making stupid stuff up about a whole lot of things.
So what does this have to do with gratitude… you may ask. Let me share with you what I have learned, what I know, and what I practice.
I believe that to live and demonstrate strong personal leadership, where we are at choice with our thoughts, requires the cultivation and practice of gratitude.
I don’t mean that periodic thought or statement of “oh I’m grateful for the wonderful life I have”, or the off the cuff expression of thankfulness that makes us feel good when we are having a crappy day.
I am talking about embodying an attitude of gratitude – Embodying gratitude actually changes your brain and I dare say “it can change your life.”
It sure did for me!
Developing a gratitude practice takes conscious effort. It requires the practice of “Prompted Awareness”. Prompted awareness is about focusing on being continuously mindful or being present.
Prompted awareness takes you out spending most of your day in your own head – spinning useless thoughts, and gets you purposely being on the lookout for things that you can appreciate:
things you like
things that make you feel good
things that you find funny
things that peak your curiosity
By default these experiences make you feel grateful.
Here is the kicker though, prompted awareness takes a lot of energy and practice. Thriving in your conscious brain takes way way more effort than surviving in your unconscious brain.
So how do you cultivate a “Gratitude Attitude”
I have honed my own practice. It’s a combination of much reading and the processes, hacks, and tips I have researched.
(I give reference to Pam Grout’s “Thanks and Grow Rich” as principal inspiration).
Each morning when you wake up… start making your first conscious thought of the day a statement of gratitude.
Something like, “I am blessed to be alive for another day” or “I’m happy to open my eyes and see another day” Watch how your whole demeanor changes.
For me, my face relaxes, my mind opens - it truly feels like it is opening space. I have been doing this morning act of prompted awareness for over a year and I can contest that this one little action has been the most powerful anecdote I have ever used to feeling blue, tired or lacking energy. It is my golden pill to ward off depression.
2. Then affirm your intention for being blessed
An affirmation like, “Something absolutely amazing will happen today, because I am blessed to be alive.”
I added this step into my practice 8 months ago and what can I say - it has changed my complete mindset for living a winning day. Before I am even out of bed… I am positioned for positivity and vitality in my day. This affirmation sparks a skip in my step.
3. As you go through the day, look for simple things to be grateful for
Things like, the white crispness of the snow, or the chocolate ice-cream you didn’t intent to have but it was oh so yummy, or the feeling of your muscles after a work-out, or a child’s giggle.
Before I knew it, I was looking… searching… scouting out little things. I became aware of the most insignificant events and how they made me feel. Feelings like connection, pleasure, awe, amusement (I laugh more today then ever).
I started positioning myself to do things - for which I could be grateful… like random acts of kindness or acts of personal fulfillment like singing full-out while driving, or giggling to myself out loud, or pushing my self that extra little bit to get “it” done .
A side effect I never anticipated was that I also noticed more of the not so good stuff in the world, but I have a whole new lens of gentleness, compassion and gratitude with which to approach it.
4. Commit to a 30 day practice of writing down three things that you took notice of each day
5. Here’s the hack… never repeat the same thing twice. That is 90 prompted experiences in awareness and gratitude.
So… Get Curious… Get Adventurous… Get Present!
Get a small notebook or journal.
Each day I write down my morning affirmation, leaving space so that the next day I can note the 3 gratitudes from the day before, and then put to paper the affirmation again
You will find that over the 30 days you will begin to develop a habit, rewiring your brain… to focus on the positive and to being present. You will begin to live more and more in your conscious mind. Eventually, gratitude will be as effortless for you as breathing. You will have literally sculpted your brain to have a bias for gratitude.
This practice is one of the most stick-to-it things I have done. When I fall off the wagon it only takes a few days for me to feel the impact - the pull of something missing - and I am compelled in my heart to get right back to it.
If this isn’t enough to get you motivated, I’ll leave you with a bit of what science says happens when you live a daily practice of gratitude.*
1. Seventeen percent increase in social capital… People like you more. Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative
2. Long term well-being increases 10%. That's the same impact as doubling your income!
3. Nineteen percent more time spent exercising
4. Ten percent less physical pain
5. Eight percent more sleep....with 25% increased sleep quality. Who couldn't use more of that?
7. Thirty percent less depressive symptoms
8. Significant decrease in systolic blood pressure
9. Noticeable increase in vitality and energy
10. And as I attested in my thesis of this piece… Practicing gratitude makes you a more effective leader.
For self leadership, it increases decision-making capabilities, increases productivity, goal achievement and self esteem
For leading others, it enhances the willingness to collaborate, to mentor, to celebrate others success and to share your abilities
So why not get a notebook and get started? Watch your brain change. And then watch your life change around you.
*A great article on the benefits of gratitude can be found here: The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life. https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/