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  • Writer's pictureCoaching Within

The Power of a Thankful Heart

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

The 5th of November marks three months in which myself and two of my friends have listed three things that we were thankful for every morning as a gratitude practice.

I have started many gratitude practices over the years and have participated in the exercises from the book 'The Magic' in which you spend a period of 28 days completing various exercises relating to gratitude.

But this idea came from my travels in Bali due to me reading the amazing book 'Welcome Home' by Najwa Zebian (if you haven't read this book then I highly recommend that you do). I took a picture of the paragraph and sent it to my girlfriends to ask whether our WhatsApp group chat could start incorporating this and we have been loyal to the practice ever since.

The practice requires us every morning to either voice note or write out three things that we are thankful for which can range from people we love, the weather, our appliances, parts of our bodies, experiences and trips and even past experiences that have helped us grow and become the people we are today. It has helped us find the light in the dark when we were experiencing really difficult moments and were struggling emotionally, physically and mentally.

It is incredibly important to me because I am in contact with my friends every day, gratitude is high on the Abraham Hicks Emotional Scale and can instantly change your perception for the better but it also challenges 'Negative Bias' that occurs in the brain.

Negative bias is our tendency to register negative events and dwell on them, which means that we are more likely to:

  • Focus on constructive feedback rather than praise.

  • Remember insults rather than compliments.

  • Think about negative things rather than positive, whether that is past, present or future.

For instance, if you have an appraisal or a supervision session with your boss and they give you some wonderful praise and positive comments on your performance at work, but then give you some constructive feedback for improvement to help with your development. You will remember and hone in on that constructive feedback and barely remember the praise that you received.

Similar to if you are having a great day and one negative thing happens, when you go home and someone asks how your day was, you will more than likely say it was a bad day and recall the negative event that occurred, when in reality that only accounted for 10% of your day.

Our tendency to pay more attention to bad things and overlook good things is highly likely a result of evolution. In early human history our ancestors had to pay attention to bad things and negative threats because it is likely that they were all dangerous and so it was a matter of life and death. Therefore, those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive, suggesting that our brains have evolved to focus on the negative to keep us safe.

Neuroscientific evidence has shown that there is greater neural processing in the brain in response to negative stimuli. In studies conducted by psychologist John Cacioppo, participants were shown pictures of either positive, negative, or neutral images. The researchers then observed electrical activity in the brain. Negative images produced a much stronger response in the cerebral cortex than did positive or neutral images.

So how does this link to a gratitude practice? Establishing a gratitude practice helps you challenge your brain that is looking for and remembering all the negative events that have occurred during the day because you are training it to look and recall for the positives.

You can train your brain and create a gratitude practice in a number of ways:

  • On a morning start your day with three things that you are thankful for. It might be easier to think about what happened the day before and pick three things that occurred and you are thankful that they did.

  • Finish your day with three things that you are thankful for. Again, it may be three things that have happened that day and you can sit and reflect on how thankful you are that they did happen.

  • You can do this in a journal, on the notes section on your phone, or even download an app. I have the app called 'Gratitude' and that also has a feature that I really like in which it provides daily prompts to help you think of different things you are thankful.

  • Follow my lead and set up a WhatsApp chat with some close friends that might want to do this with you and every day voice note or text the three things you are thankful for. This way provides you with accountability and gentle reminders also.

I would love to hear what you are grateful for and how you have incorporated a gratitude practice, so please do get in touch.

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