If you think negatively about life or yourself, from time to time, it is ok. It is simply part of being human. Unfortunately, no one has ever figured out how to be perpetually happy. Though most of us would like to learn how to get happy and stay happy permanently.
The truth is being upset or depressed is a survival mechanism that your brain uses to tell you to take an action that moves you from pain to pleasure. It is the brain’s job. So, it helps to learn how to break away from negative thoughts and to think more positively.
A strategy that helps set negative self talk aside is the practice of being gracious. What helps is conjuring up feelings of gratitude towards people, situations or objects. That is because either a) you temporarily setting aside your negative thoughts, or, b) you completely shift your context of your current situation.
The benefits of grateful thinking
Your brain on gratitude
Your brain is that it can only think one thought in one given moment of time. Even though it may feel as though you have many thoughts reeling through your mind at the same time. When you ponder positive stimuli no attention is allotted for negative thoughts.
Being grateful is a positive mind state. And when you focus your awareness on a memory, person, or object that you are grateful for, your brain activates blood flow in brain regions that increase production of a crucial “happy” brain chemical called dopamine. This quick release sends your body a quick flood of feeling good emotions.
In 2009, the National Institutes of Health examined brains of subjects thinking thoughts of gratitude. They had higher levels of hypothalamic activity and increased dopamine levels.
How to be grateful
Many experts suggest keeping a gratitude journal and logging what you are grateful for each day to help you cultivate this type of positive thinking, so it comes more naturally. This can be a useful practice. A study from UC Davis (2003) reported that adults who keep gratitude journals are more determined, attentive, enthusiastic and have higher energy levels than those who don’t.
But, learning how to get happy by being grateful doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s as simple as thinking about a memory, person, or object for as little as five minutes a day. Follow these quick steps when you feel negative or catch yourself putting yourself down:
Here is how to get happy:
Step 1: Stop all activities.
Step 2: Do whatever you need to, to take a five or ten minute “time-out”. You may need to close your eyes. You may need to physically leave your environment.
Step 3: Inhale and exhale deeply while you think about a memory, a person, or an object, that you feel blessed to have in your life. **If it helps to look at a physical object, like a picture, you can use that, as an aid**
Follow these three steps whenever you need to or want to. The more you do it the more you will help your brain stimulate the release of dopamine. This is good news, because when dopamine is released in the brain your brain responds by saying “I want more”. It’s the same chemical that’s produced when alcohol is ingested, which is also how addictions occur. But this is a very healthy addiction to cultivate.
And if you’re in such a bad mood you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, refer to this quick list:
- Recall a moment in your life where you accomplished something you are proud of
- Think about the birth of your child or children
- Replay memories of your first kiss or your first love
- Remember the day you married your significant other
- Be grateful to be in a body that works
- Think of a moment where someone made a difference in your life
- Smile and think of a pet that you love
To be grateful ist acknowledge the incredible life you lead and have led. It’s an incredible way to get happy on-demand. Start the practice today and see what difference it makes.