Have Gratitude In Your Daily Life – Positive Vibe Series

When I lie on my back and look up at the Milky Way on a clear night and see the vast distances of space and reflect that these are also vast differences of time as well, when I look at the Grand Canyon and see the strata going down, down, down, through periods of time which the human mind can’t comprehend . . . it’s a feeling of sort of an abstract gratitude that I am alive to appreciate these wonders, when I look down a microscope it’s the same feeling, I am grateful to be alive to appreciate these wonders. 

Richard Dawkins

The concept of gratitude is described in different ways as an emotion, a virtue, or an attitude. Whatever your understanding of gratitude, often, it is defined by a two-step process: 1) “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome” and 2) “recognizing that there is an external source for this positive outcome.” (Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough). Yet, whatever your disposition with its meaning, interestingly, gratitude is not merely a cultural creation. Scientific research has shown that the concept is embedded in our evolutionary development. For instance, it has been observed that birds, vampire bats, or fish incur some costs to themselves in helping another member of their species, in view that it might be beneficial to them, eventually.

Furthermore, scientists suggest that gratitude has been developed gradually from this “tit for tat” behavior, better known as “reciprocal altruism.” A process that is based on turning strangers into friends who will likely help one another. Further studies on chimpanzees support this idea that these primates share food with another of their kind if they have been groomed or helped by them in the past. Or, studies from neuroscience have observed some areas in the brain that involve experiencing and expressing gratitude. 

Consequently, gratitude is an inherent cognitive response strongly associated with greater happiness and better physical health. A study has shown that people’s heart health improves when they show appreciation, which is related to gratitude. Regardless of how you feel, express, or express gratitude, this emotion undeniably builds stronger relationships, creates good experiences, increases our well-being, and cultivates an optimistic attitude. Not to mention, gratitude has psychological benefits perceived as an intervention to overcome negativity. Moreover, individuals who have a grateful disposition are better protected from various forms of burnout. For instance, athletes who have grateful mindsets are less prone to burn the candle at both ends.

Nevertheless, the ability to be grateful requires seeds of humility and the willingness to develop our disposition intelligently. One of the most effective ways to cultivate gratitude is to keep a journal. Studies have found that “counting your blessings” for ten weeks and keeping them in a gratitude journal increases optimism and improves life satisfaction, self-esteem, and, importantly, decreasing depression symptoms. Knowing well that as humans, we are more sensitive to negative emotions than positive. For instance, we will be miserable if things are taken away from us than if we were to receive a gift. Needless to say that being grateful does not translate into living a modest life with no ambition. On the contrary, gratitude is one of the essential components of self-improvement. It starts with full awareness of what can go wrong, what we can be grateful for, nurture a positive mindset, and build on our skills to reach our goals and progress.

In the meantime, remember:

Learn to be thankful for what you already have while you pursue all that you want.

Jim Rohn

 

 

Featured image by Perfectionist Magazine

Beginner’s Mind – Foundation of Mindfulness # 3

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

Shunryo Suzuki

Past experiences and preconceived ideas have great value when it comes to making decisions about everyday activities. However, they are tainted to the degree that we cannot absorb the new reality of the present time or the face value of an action, a discussion, or a situation. It is always comfortable to skim through the information to support and validate our previous experience; nevertheless, we tend to lose the possibility of learning a new way of doing things or transforming our ideas for the better by seeing things with fresh eyes.

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Art by Magritte – The Human Condition

Everybody knows that some things are simply impossible until somebody who doesn’t know that makes them possible. - Albert Einstein

The real problem starts when you are an expert, one who has more assumptions than questions. Fending off new ways of doing things or not being receptive to new ideas happens to the experienced. An apprehension swishes and contaminates the mind, which in turn will end up either with cherry-picking to justify the established rules and practices or simply dismissal of the new approach.

When we adopt the mind of a beginner, we endeavour to look at things as if for the first time, free from the influence of the past or speculation about the future. We open ourselves to what is here now, rather than constructing stories about what we think is here. Much like a scientist who observes without bias, beginner’s mind allows us to collect raw data. This opens us up to new possibilities, rather than being confined by habits and conditioning. — Tracy Ochester.

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Art by Magritte – The treachery of images

A beginner’s mind is keen to meet a new person, have a fresh outlook on familiar people, or learn a new skill. Practicing beginners’ minds (or shoshin in Japanese Zen Buddhism) feeds a growth mindset. An outlook that refuses to have more of the same for the rest of its life knows well that the safety zone is not always the right place to be. It stales the mind and prevents you from growing and reaching your potential. By default, we prefer to stay in our comfort zone, yet adopting a growth mindset requires courage to embrace vulnerability and humility. To acknowledge that there is always a better way of doing things or when it comes to human relations, we give people the benefit of the doubt.

Ways to Cultivate a beginner’s mind

  • Adopt the notion that endless possibilities exist.
  • Switch off the autopilot mode. 
  • Be in the present moment.
  • Listen carefully when a familiar topic comes up; you don’t have to rush to express your opinion or add value; observe and ask questions like you didn’t know about the subject.
  • Explore something to re-experience the feelings; it can be basic as eating your meal or making your bed.
  • Stop labeling and notice that you are on auto judgment – Ask yourself why you consider things as bad, good, right, or wrong? Is it out of habit? Integrate seeing things in your life as they are!
  • Learn a new activity to integrate challenges to your comfort zone
  • Mingle with people who have a different view of life and explore their perspective and lifestyle.
  • Change a routine in your life, your walking route, exercise, or things you eat. 
  • Practice gratitude and appreciation – it weakens the habit of taking things for granted.

 

For more information, read “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Featured Image by aykutaydogdu