There is one thing that we all want, one thing that we strive for - happiness. Happiness however is a journey, not a destination. Research by Shawn Achor, positive psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage, as well as other psychologists attest to this principle that if we equate our happiness with an end result, such as the goal of obtaining something, like a house for example, we will inevitably change the benchmark once we have obtained that goal.
We will push the benchmark of happiness further and further in order to again grasp something more, maybe furniture for the new house. As such, we miss out on experiencing happiness fully and are always searching for the next thing of desire.
Positive psychology and neuroscience give us some solid backing on how to practice the process of happiness. Just like building muscles at the gym, our happiness “muscles” need to be attuned to and employed. The “muscles” of happiness are thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Paying attention to these “muscles” and being intentional with them is fundamental to the process. The concept of neuroplasticity informs us that we have the potential to change the way our brain is wired with intentional actions that re-wire old habits, be they behavior or thinking patterns.
One sure way to increase our happiness is through gratitude. Gratitude is expressed in various ways in our world, all of which lend an appreciation and graciousness to someone or towards something. With a shift in focusing on what we are grateful for we begin to see the positives, even during the hard or challenging times. Intentionally being grateful will, slowly but surely, re-wire our brains from a negative (or lack perspective) to a more positive (or abundant perspective). The latter being a perspective that lends us to greater overall happiness.
When we are short on money, our negative brain may naturally go to thoughts of lack about how much we don't have and how terrible our life circumstances are, leading us down a spiral path. On the other hand, a brain that has been wired towards gratefulness may naturally find appreciation for other things, like sunshine, close relationships and a hot cup of tea.
Being grateful or simply thinking about things that make us feel appreciative have a natural effect on our brain releasing neurotransmitters that aid in mood improvement and connection (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin).
Quiet daily reflection, making a gratitude list, sending someone a text or an email just to tell them you appreciate them, or taking photos of things you are grateful for can all contribute towards this positive outlook.
Another way to create a daily gratitude practice is through photography and social media. For example, Dr. Lauren Tober created a global movement called Capturing Gratitude, which aims to increase worldwide happiness, one photograph at a time. Capturing Gratitude encourages you to take time out of your day to notice things that you are grateful for, those that you can think about and more importantly, those that you can feel.
Remember: the key to maximizing the benefits of gratitude is to be consistent in your practice, which in turn, re-wires the brain for happiness.
Come and join the worldwide happiness and gratitude movement at www.capturinggratitude.com. You can also join the Capturing Gratitude revolution by using @CapturingGratitude or #CapturingGratitude on your gratitude photos on your preferred social media site: Facebook or Instagram.