Dr. Lisa Gonzales
Gratitude is All About Muscle Memory
Athletes are pretty familiar with muscle memory.
While muscles don't store memory, they sure do like doing the same thing over and over. Think about running...one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. Coordinated muscle contractions receive instructions from the brain and beautiful movements result.
Even though many of us love to think we are expert at multi-tasking, our brains are most efficient when they focus on one task at a time. Its probably why rubbing our stomach with one hand while patting our head with another is so difficult.
But that muscle memory makes for efficiency. Think about it. Your body knows exactly what to do when it gets on a bike. Your brain kicks in the muscle memory and the natural movements allow you to focus on moving around in traffic on that bike or responding to a barking dog that decides to engage in a chase. The more our muscle memory automatically kicks in, the more brain power can be diverted into other projects.
Got it ?
Let's take that concept and apply it to the brain on 'gratitude.' The same muscle memory can be trained, almost as quickly as learning to successfully ride that bike. Gratitude doesn't come naturally - it is conditioned. Trained. Reflect back upon your own childhood and your parents requiring you to write thank you notes before enjoying holiday or birthday gifts. Over time, you realized that sending that appreciation meant you were on the gift list for the following year.
Your brain can be trained to be more in tune with gratitude in a short period, building dendrites that change the brain's chemistry. Gearing yourself towards a gratitude mindset starts with finding simple ways to celebrate, honor, and express thanks. And those who do that on a regular basis? The science doesn't lie: those who regularly practice gratitude are 25% happier.
Super easy to start this in your life. One simple approach? Download a gratitude app and set it to remind you daily: share three things you are grateful for.
Take the easy way to start, such as:
And then deepen your thoughts to go beyond simple, like
a family member recovering from cancer
a note from an old friend
a student who said thank you after you stayed after class to help and he understood the problem you were trying to solve
At the end of the day, if you want the muscle memory to practice gratitude more effectively and seamlessly, learn to give it daily. After 28 days, voila, you should see a lifestyle impact.
Are you ready?