In our journey towards personal growth and understanding, it's essential to recognise that our brains and nervous systems, interestingly, have evolved with a bias towards negativity. This so-called "negativity bias" is rooted in our need for survival.
Whilst our ancestors needed to be on alert for potential threats from predators to ensure survival in the wilderness, this tendency to focus on the negative, to constantly be on guard, became an evolutionary advantage.
However, in today's world, where existential threats are significantly reduced (for the majority of us), this bias can sometimes work against our emotional well-being.
It can make us dwell on criticism more than praise, or ruminate on setbacks rather than celebrating achievements.
But here lies the beauty of being human: our capacity to evolve, adapt and choose a different path.
While we might have an innate predisposition towards the negative, we are not bound by it.
We have the power of awareness, reflection, and intention.
By acknowledging this bias, we can actively choose to respond differently and work towards nurturing positivity and gratitude.
This is where a consistent practice of gratitude comes into play, as a powerful counter to our predisposition and enable us to reframe our tendency towards focusing on what isn’t going right for us, to appreciating what is.
Why Embrace Gratitude?
A Shift in Perspective:
Regularly acknowledging what we're thankful for nudges our mindset from focusing on what's lacking or not going right to appreciating what we do have.
Growth & Resilience:
An inevitable fact of life is that we will at some point in our lives face challenges and moments of uncertainty. Gratitude equips us to respond from a space of understanding and resilience, rather than mere reaction, making it easy to navigate hardship.
The Power of Shared Stories
Antonio Damasio’s insightful study, "Neural correlates of gratitude" from October 2015, highlighted the profound impact of stories centred on gratitude. When we hear tales of individuals overcoming adversities with the aid of others, or recall moments when we were the recipients of kindness, we establish a profound human connection. These stories not only inspire but solidify our belief in the strength of community and gratitude.
Building a Robust Gratitude Practice
Seek Stories of Gratitude:
Connect with a story that enables you to connect with the feeling of gratitude. Engage with narratives, whether written, spoken, or visual, that revolve around thankfulness.
Connect with a story that strikes a chord with your experiences or aspirations.
Repetition & Reinforcement:
The magic of gratitude amplifies with consistency.
Repetition strengthens the brain-heart connection and actually begins to change the emotion and motivation circuitry of the brain, leading to:
a reduction in anxiety and fear.
enhanced motivation to pursue our passions.
improved emotional well-being.
an increase in serotonin levels, leading to a heightened sense of contentment.
Gratitude: A Commitment to Growth
In summary, gratitude in and of itself is a powerful tool that enables us to transcend our inbuilt tendency towards negativity for survival and protection, and steer ourselves towards a mindset of growth and appreciation. However, just like training a muscle in the gym, strengthening our relationship with gratitude requires consistent effort and an active commitment to recognising and celebrating the good, both big and small, in our lives. Finding ways to infuse your days, heart, and mind with this transformative practice will help you to witness the profound shifts it can call into your life.