Be Grateful: The Science of Gratitudeby
Gratitude has been shown through numerous studies to benefit us, both mentally and physically. In a 2008 study, subjects experiencing gratitude were found to be influencing their hypothalamus - the part of the brain responsible for sleep, eating and stress. The same study also showed that gratitude stimulated dopamine transmitters which create new learning pathways.
So the science is clear but how do we practice ‘gratitude’ and schedule it into our busy lives? One such way is journaling and keeping a daily gratitude journal has been proven to generate a greater sense of well-being and improve sleep quality.
Journaling allows us to monitor progress, after all, if you’re not keeping track, how do you know you’re improving? If you’re not analysing your day and figuring out what activities are effective and which are not, there is no clear purpose and your actions are steeped in unconsciousness.
The 5 Minute Journal
I was recently introduced to The 5 Minute Journal (5MJ) as endorsed by New York Best Selling Author Tim Ferriss. The 5MJ combines the proven elements of positive psychology with a beautifully produced, high quality journal whose simple yet intuitive format enables you to start and end the day the right way.
Whilst it’s proven that shifting your focus to the positive is important, the key to long-term success is consistency. The 5MJ’s structure, daily quotes and weekly challenges make committing to this new habit so much easier and all it takes is 5 minutes a day.
The 5MJ asks the question “What would make today great?” and by answering this daily, you are influencing your Recticular Activation System (RAS). The RAS is a part of the brain that turns on and off your perception of thoughts and ideas which changes the way you look at the world.
Have you ever purchased a new car and then seen the same model everywhere? The reason is that your RAS changes to accommodate your new purchase and will remind you of this change by pointing out others that have the same car. Influencing your RAS daily helps you notice and engage in activities that make your day better. You are building new pathways to allow you to ‘see’ what you can do to improve your wellbeing and new programs that naturally learn to improve happiness.
What Makes the 5MJ So Effective?
The 5MJ consists of key sections which help you to start the day the right way, and go to sleep happy:
The “Daily Affirmation” is a simple statement that defines you as you want to be. Every time you write your affirmation you are priming your brain to start building this belief and create the change from within.
The “Amazing Three” enables you to count your blessings in the day. It allows you to take stock of the positive things that happened however great or small and ‘primes’ your brain in reverse.
“How could I have made today even better” is your personal reminder that you have the power to change your perception of the past, and influence the future. Your perception shapes your reality and during the day negative situations or experiences may lead to knee jerk reactions. This question allows you to revisit those moments and look at actionable ways in which you could have done things differently. In time, this exercise can help shift the way you look at problems and the actions you want to improve the outcome.
Positive Habit Loops
The 5MJ is not a silver bullet, you still need to invest the time, but with dedication and commitment you could transform your life. The rewards are endless and building this positive habit loop into your daily routine can help improve your relationships and health, as well as improving sleep quality.
Couples in fulfilling relationships resolve conflicts before they go to sleep which enhances trust and harmony. In the same way, writing the journal before you go to sleep helps shift your focus to the positive and short circuits negative thoughts.
I’ve just started on the journey of journaling and keep the 5MJ next to my bed so it’s the last thing I do at night, and the first thing in the morning. Those first few moments set the tone for the day ahead. Why not join me on the journey to a healthier and more productive life.
The 5MJ is not available from Amazon or major online resellers so to find out more, or to purchase a copy, visit the official site here: fiveminutejournal.com
UJ and Alex recently put together a video on The 5 Minute Journal which explains in-depth how to get the most out of it. In it they cover how to use it effectively and get results. Check it out below:
Would love to hear about your own journaling experiences.