Memories, thoughts, feelings, actions. All of these are influenced by the way we ‘look’ at life. Do you want to experience a more positive, joy-filled life? Yes? Here is a word for you!!
(following are excerpts from this great blog post!)
We think about our lives in terms of story—a linear progression of characters and events that we’ve encountered along this crazy journey. How we view that story has a tremendous impact on what our lives will become. However, there’s a catch: the story of your life is actually less about what’s happened to you and more about your understanding of those events. Most of your “memories” are actually just like movies: fictional accounts based on “actual events.”
“Our perceptual systems aren’t built to notice absolutely everything in our environment,” writes Kimberley Wade, noted memory expert. “We take in information through all our senses but there are gaps. So when we remember an event, what our memory ultimately does is fills in those gaps by thinking about what we know about the world.”
To put it bluntly, the life you live is shaped by your memories, and your memories are largely semi-fictional narratives that are manipulated by your already-present attitudes, biases, and thought patterns. For better or worse, the story of your life becomes a vicious mental cycle; but those habits can be changed.
“Be thankful in all circumstances.”
Why? Because gratitude has the power to actually change your memories for the better. And if you can alter what you know about your past, your whole world will also be positioned for change. Amit Amin offers this in his article, The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life:
Experiencing gratitude in the present makes us more likely to remember positive memories, and actually transforms some of our neutral or even negative memories into positive ones. In one study, putting people into a grateful mood helped them find closure of upsetting open memories. During these experiences, participants were more likely to recall positive aspects of the memory than usual, and some of the negative and neutral aspects were transformed into positives.The Apostle Paul wasn’t suggesting that you should become one of those nauseating Pollyanna Christians who never knows loss, failure, darkness, and depression. Quite the contrary. His words have a bigger purpose. He was urging us to embrace an attitude of thanksgiving because he knew something two millennia ago that psychologists are just now starting to figure out: unleashed gratitude will run amok through your soul and could potentially destroy everything in your past, your present, and the entire trajectory of your future … all for the better.
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” ~Jean-Baptiste Massieu
Gratitude can completely alter the story of your life.You mind is a creature of habit. As I wrote in an earlier piece, negativity and toxic thoughts are often addictive and self-fulfilling in nature. If that’s what you have to work with, that’s what your mind uses to fill in all those mental “gaps” that Wade discusses. Likewise, a well-trained grateful heart (and all that comes with it) can cultivate crops of success throughout your life.
“Gratitude can have such a powerful impact on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle,” writes Alex Korb, Ph.D. Once that cycle is set in motion, your brain will naturally start to provide you with things to be grateful for. As Dr. Christian Jarrett suggests, we should think of gratitude as a “muscle that can be exercised and strengthened.”
While there are a number of ways to cultivate gratitude, I’m going to suggest you try this: For the next month, keep a Gratitude Journal. Take just five minutes each day and write about something (a person, place, event—whatever) that you’re thankful for, either past or present. Just pick one thing each day and explore the goodness that it has brought into your life-story. Pay particular attention to the seemingly small things your mind will start to offer up (those trivial things can leave a bigger mark than we realize). Be deliberate and let yourself delight in those moments of gratitude; allow yourself the time and space to hang out there for a bit.
Maybe even take it a step further and do this activity as a group, sharing your gratitude journals with each other (I think you’ll find the positive effects will be magnified in many ways; you’ll soon find your group members swimming in a sea of success stories). Do that for thirty days and I promise you’ll begin to notice some incredible changes as the story of your life begins to be retold.