In Part 1, we talked about the importance of building habits. Without learning how to successfully program habits, the rest of your efforts simply won’t “stick”. This post discusses a new habit for your list: gratitude.
I’m not a religious person, but the concept of giving thanks has value outside of spirituality. Being grateful and incorporating a healthy dose of living with gratitude in your life is the next step on our journey into biohacking.
First, let’s define gratitude. It is the quality of being thankful. It’s having an honest desire to return kindness and show appreciation for the positive things in your life. Gratitude is a state of mind and can be expressed in simple gestures: a nod of the head, saying “thank you”, giving a thumbs up, volunteering, giving a sincere compliment, upvoting a post on Reddit (wink), being patient, congratulating others on their actions or even just listening to someone and being there for them in the moment. These are just a few ways, there are countless more .
So what makes gratitude so valuable and why is this even a biohack?
Studies have shown that gratitude decreases stress and can reduce the effects of mental trauma. A 2006 study titled “Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans“, linked daily gratitude as increasing the reported “pleasant” days for those who suffered from PTSD. It also stated that gratitude was uniquely associated with each dimension of daily well-being in both PTSD and non-PTSD veterans.
Gratitude can reduce social comparisons and even increase the self-esteem of others. A 2014 study titled “Gratitude Enhances Change in Athletes’ Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of Trust in Coach“, linked increased performance and trust to showing gratitude. For you, this can mean better personal and work relationships.
Gratitude reduces negativity. A study titled “Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life” correlates spending time thinking about things you’re grateful for has a positive correlation to your emotional and interpersonal states.
Gratitude can increase your physical well being as you become older. This study, “Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood“, linked gratitude and self-reported physical wellness. It was observed that this increases with age.
Incorporating gratitude in your life is a foundational reprogramming for most of us. In today’s modern society, negativity toward others has become the norm. It affects everything from our commute to how we interact with service and retail workers. Negativity and conflict permeates social media.
This biohack is about reducing negativity in your life and creating a positive influence on you and those you socialize with.
- Express gratitude in some manner to everyone you interact with every day. Recognize people. A simple nod and a smile in greeting for someone who makes eye contact with you as you walk down the sidewalk is a type of gratitude. Let people merge in traffic. It’s not going to impact you. Verbally thank any retail person who helps you in any way, no matter how insignificant. You don’t have to constantly show gratitude for every interaction with people at work, but be sure and show some type of gratitude toward each person at least once every day.
- When you feel stressed or sad, make a conscious effort to think of any positive things you have experienced today. This could be as simple as reflecting on the moments you showed gratitude to others or remembering someone returning a kindness to you (you can also refer to your Gratitude Journal as describe below). Training your brain to seek out positive thoughts when stressed is very powerful.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal. Microsoft One Note can be used for free and accessed from the web or a mobile app. I personally have a Google Doc that I use. There are many journal/diary apps out there as well. Just remember that you want your notes available on the cloud so you don’t lose them if you lose your phone. Write in your journal 15 minutes before bed. You don’t have to write a lot. Just pick three things from the day that you feel grateful about and record those.
Add “Show Gratitude to others” and “Write in my Gratitude journal” to your habit tracking and follow the 66 day minimum to make gratitude an essential part of your lifestyle.