What’s the secret to a long, happy life?  Practice gratitude (or ‘attitude gratitude’) daily!

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports that in an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, were more optimistic about the upcoming week, AND were more likely to achieve personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Robert Emmons & Michael McCullough, 2003-2006).

Alternatively, numerous studies have found that individuals experiencing physical, mental, or emotional pressure (i.e. psychological stress) are more susceptible to health problems.  The National Cancer Institute reports that people who experience intense and long-term stress can have digestive problems, fertility problems, urinary problems, headaches, viral infections, depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system.  You’ve probably had personal experience with this, right?!  So…

Stop the Negativity Bias

How often do you allow yourself to be present and give thanks for what IS positive in your life?  Take 30 seconds and do this NOW.

It takes the brain five to twenty seconds to even begin to register positive experiences yet negative events are felt almost instantaneously.   Dangers, pain, and problems are what capture the brains attention in order to protect us from harm.  Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls this the brain’s “negativity bias”.  “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. The natural result is a growing – and unfair – residue of emotional pain, pessimism, and numbing inhibition in memory.”

How do we overcome this genetic disposition and focus on an attitude of gratitude?

Start by simply finding ONE thing in your life that brings you joy and WRITE IT DOWN daily.  The brain makes a stronger connection (and recollection) with experiences that provide multiple senses.  Soon you will have a collection of what’s RIGHT in your life which can provide motivation during the times when everything seems wrong.  Use it to turn off the negativity bias and refocus on what is positive!

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