“Change the channel,” Mom and her best friend Louise said whenever the grouch monster threw them into a fit of complaining. It was a way of nudging each other to stop dwelling on the negative and instead focus on what they were grateful for.
When Mom and Louise helped each other change the channel, their grumpy faces flushed with red lipstick smiles. It was like they’d flipped their inner television station from the doom-and-gloom network news to the life-is-good Hallmark channel. They stopped grousing and started what they called “gratitude-ing.”
The Science of Gratitude
Scientists have conducted research to measure the brain activity of people thinking and feeling grateful thoughts. According to Gratitude and the Brain: What Is Happening? studies have discovered:
“[G]ratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine. Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel.”
Due to the plasticity of the brain, when we practice gratitude-ing regularly, positive thinking becomes a way of life. We improve our health, increase our performance, and experience deeper happiness in relationships. We reach our dreams and goals.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
God wants us to experience true happiness. He created us with a natural attitude of gratitude—a desire to live with inner ease, hope, and a positive Spirit.
But our culture clamors with endless sky-is-falling news. Social media says you don’t measure up to six-pack perfection, and the mudslinging of who-hates-who often drowns us in the quicksand of negativity and despair. As a result, the neurons in our brains and the love in our hearts become overwhelmed with the world’s negativity.
So how do we change the channels that flood our minds with negativity and switch to the Hallmark channels of life, love, and happiness?
It takes practice to reprogram our brains to a positive outlook. By making a regular habit of gratitude-ing, we turn pessimism into optimism. We open new neuron pathways that become superhighways to grateful living, and our resilient hearts flood with joy.
Here are three simple practices to experience more gratitude in your life:
It’s a great day to have a great day
When you wake up in the morning, before you throw back the sheets and climb out of bed, name three or more things for which you are grateful.
It could be a simple “I’m grateful I’m on God’s ‘wake-up’ list today.”
You might be grateful for coffee, your mate, your bed, your pet, or God.
Whatever comes to mind as you do a gratitude scan, let it shape your day by getting your neurons and heart flowing in a positive direction.
Change the channel
Throughout the day, notice when your attitude turns to complaining about yourself, life, or people around you. Scan your body to see if your face has turned into a grimace, your temper is flaring hot, or your emotions have turned dark.
Notice if you’re using ways to numb yourself and your awareness of the present moment with video games, social media, toxic substances, gossip, or backstabbing.
Then take several deep breaths (go out into nature if you can) and quietly say to yourself or out loud, “I choose to change the channel.”
Next, name three or more things for which you are grateful.
If it’s work that’s bothering you, turn the channel and remind yourself you’re grateful you have a job.
If it’s other people triggering your negativity, invite yourself to say a prayer for them. Be grateful for the things they teach you. Notice how they invite you to grow on the inside with things like patience, acceptance, or non-judgment.
When I try to let go of my negativity but it keeps haunting me, I find the following practice helpful:
Name the resentment or anger. I name who or what I’m struggling with. I might even write it down.
Give yourself compassion. Then, I neutralize my negative feelings by giving myself compassion—allowing myself to be okay with the feelings toward myself and the person or thing with which I’m frustrated. This allows me to open my heart and receive the love I need to get to the other side of the negativity. It neutralizes the anger or resentment within me.
Fill your heart with gratitude. As I let go of the negativity, I ask myself how I’ve grown as a result of the person or situation. What have I learned? For example, when I’m angry because someone offended me, I remind myself how forgiveness is slowly becoming easier for me. Then I move into the rest of the day. I might even pat myself on the back thanking the Creator for the grace to grow on the inside.
Finally, I create a personal gratitude list on paper or on my smart phone listing those people and things for which I am learning to be thankful.
As you jump into bed at night, stop for a moment. Review the day and name the things that happened for which you are grateful.
Did someone smile at you or offer you a compliment?
Were you able to resolve a problem?
Did you experience God’s love through a friend, a spouse, or a pet?
Did you have enough food to eat and a place to sleep?
Did you spend time with someone you love?
Whatever good happened to you during the day, name it, receive it as gift, and lift it up to God with a grateful heart.
The Gift of Grateful Living
We can’t expect ourselves to be Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah happy every moment. Sometimes life is just plain hard.
But we can choose gratitude as a way of tackling the grouch monster.
Try the above suggestions each day for the next week as you practice the art of grateful living.
Then pay it forward by teaching others how to change the channel from grousing to gratitude-ing.
—brian j plachta
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TO ENRICH YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Check out this Free Download: A great way to sustain grateful living is to discover your Spiritual Gifts. Click the link below and Download Your Free Spiritual Gifts Inventory to find out what your top gifts are. Shoot me an email and let me know what you found out about yourself after taking the Spiritual Gifts Inventory.
Join Us for this November Webinar:
Imagine living each day with a Spirit of joy and gratefulness.
Whatever happens throughout your day—good or bad—you receive as a gift and lift up with gratitude.
You have the tools to turn off the noise of the grouch monster and change the channel to gratitude.
You experience inner peace, happiness, and deeper wholeness.
That’s what the power of grateful living feels like!
But our noisy, chaotic world throws scud missiles of negativity at us. People’s bad behavior annoys us. Fear and anxiety plug the flow of natural joy and inner peace.
There must be a way to find and sustain the power of gratitude in our daily lives.
And there is!
Join me for a free webinar and discover 3 “gratitude-ing” practices you can use in your daily life to find and sustain the flow of grateful living and live your best life.
Here’s the three keys to Gratitude-Ing you’ll discover:
Key # 1: How scientific research confirms that the regular practice of gratitude re-wires our brains, improves our health, and lets us achieve our goals and dreams.
Key #2: Three simple practices you can use at the beginning of each day, mid-day, and before you go to bed to chase the grouch monster away and live in the divine flow of grateful living.
Key # 3: How keeping a gratitude journal gets your neurons and heart flowing in the right direction.
PS—If you can’t join us live for the Webinar, feel free to sign up anyway. I will email you a link to the recorded webinar after it’s done.