Research proves that our thoughts impact both our happiness and health. But is it possible to “think ourselves happy”? Dr. Aaron Beck theorized that, generally, “happy” people think positive thoughts and “sad” people think negative thoughts. Neuroscience further affirms that our brain’s reward centers are positively reinforced at the molecular level the more we think happy thoughts.
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and expressing appreciation for the things in one’s life that are meaningful and valued. Sometimes this gets overlooked, as we can get caught up in focusing on what we don’t have, such as a bigger home, fitter body or loving partner. However, focusing on the positive in our everyday lives lifts our mood and allows richer interactions with those close to us.
Thanksgiving, the holiday of gratitude, is around the corner. We can experience and express being thankful, allowing love and gratitude to flow, by looking at where we choose to place our focus. Even in crisis, there is always something, as small as it may be, for which we can be grateful, although it might be overshadowed by pain, worry or fear. Like all things, gratitude comes with practice. These are three things we can do to jumpstart our gratitude.
Daily gratitude journaling: Write down three things for which you are grateful.
Go through the motions: Smile; saying thank you and using kind words will trigger the positive emotions of gratitude.
Do a gratitude inventory: Focus on what is good, such as health, friends, a beautiful breeze/sunset or a tax refund.
Happiness is our birthright, as is the emotion of gratitude, but it is a choice that can progress from a mindset to a way of life. Positive thoughts and energy attract the positive to us. Practicing and expressing gratitude transforms our brains, hearts and lives.
Melissa Fenton, Ph.D., LMHC, is founder of Mind Body and Beyond Center. Currently located at 13500 Sutton Park Dr. S., Ste. 203, in Jacksonville, the center is expanding and soon will be moving to a new location in Pablo Professional Park, adjacent to Mayo Clinic. For more information or to register for events, call 904-992-9930, email [email protected] or visit MindBodyAndBeyondCenter.com.