I Study a lot of personal development concepts. Perhaps the most simplistic and surprising discovery I have made is the enormous power of actively “practicing gratitude”. Some of you may be thinking, “yea, yea… be grateful… I’ve heard it before… I’m grateful.” Although “being grateful” is a good thing, it completely misses the life changing power of “practicing gratitude’.
By practicing gratitude, I mean setting aside a 5 to 10 minute block of time and immersing yourself in thoughts of gratitude. This could be in the form of prayer, or meditation, or simply a quiet solitude thinking session. Try as hard as you can to do nothing but think about things you are grateful for. Small things, like your favorite food or something you enjoy. Big things, like health and family and friends. Nature things, like sunshine or the wind. Personal things, like your job, a talent, or an opportunity you have.
The key here is to immerse yourself. Keep out any distracting thoughts or interruptions. Let the gratitude fill your mind, body, and soul. Be receptive to how your body feels as you concentrate on being thankful. Allow the feeling of gratitude to consume you. Think it and feel it. When you are done with your 5 to 10 minute session, you will have changed your state of mind.
I have found that it is impossible to feel angry or worried or depressed when you are feeling grateful. The mind cannot think these opposite thoughts at the same time, and more importantly, the body cannot feel these opposite feelings at the same time. When I am stressed out and at my wits end, instead of acting out in frustration and anger, I try to remember this exercise. It has never failed me; though sometime I don’t remember this exercise soon enough! That’s where habit comes in. Why not make practicing gratitude a daily habit. Tony Robbins starts every single morning with a “priming” session that begins with thinking of three things he is grateful for. Robbins explains the reasons he starts with gratitude is because of its ability to overpower the dangerous emotions that can sidetrack us. Those emotions are fear and anger. Robbins says, “you can’t be grateful and fearful simultaneously, and you can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. They don’t go together.”
The benefits of practicing gratitude extend from psychological to physical. Dr. Robert Emmons a leading psychologist, has studied the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude definitively increases happiness and decreases depression, by actually reducing multiple unhealthy emotions from envy and resentment, to frustration and regret. Further, a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky found those who ranked higher on gratitude scales, experienced more sensitivity and empathy towards other people and were less likely to retaliate or seek revenge against others, even when provoked. A 2014 study by the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology found that gratitude increases personal self-esteem. The study found that grateful people are able to appreciate other peoples’ accomplishments, rather than becoming resentful or jealous towards others– a key component in increasing one’s own self esteem. Finally, a 2012 study titled “Personality and Individual Differences”, found that grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report an overall healthier feeling. It also found grateful people were more likely to take care of their health by exercising more, eating healthier and receiving regular checkups–contributing to their longevity and quality of life.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this:
There is a very simple and scientifically proven method to change your state of mind. By taking 5 to 10 minutes and actively practicing gratitude you can change your life for the better. The benefits of this are increased well-being, both psychologically and physically. You can positively impact your mood and your health by making this a daily habit.
Gratefully yours, Iron Mike Stone 11-23-2017
People often ask me about why I study personal development– ‘what does it have to offer’, they ask. What they really want to know is the magic 30 second short cut. Of course, like anything worthwhile, there is no magic short cut. We struggle. We learn. We forget. We try.
And that is what matters- we try to be better. Better at what? That’s different for every person in the world. Better at whatever we, as individuals, want. Because if we don’t try, what the hell is the point?
If I did, however, have a magic 30 second short cut, it would have something to do with our thoughts– the thoughts we tell ourselves about– ourselves. The thoughts that are the “story” we believe about who we are.
What is Your Story
What is an area of your life you are happy or pleased with? When your life conditions match the “Blue Print” or the “Story” about how you believe life is supposed to be. You experience satisfaction.
What is an area of your life you are not happy or pleased with? When your life conditions do not match the “Blue Print” or “Story” about how you believe life is supposed to be. You experience pain.
When your “story” about life does not match your results and you feel you have no control to change it. You feel helpless. You experience suffering.
- Blame something— an event, someone else, yourself. Very unhealthy and destructive.
- Change your life— change something– get a new career, relationship, place to live, etc.
- Change your Blue Print— Change the story you tell yourself. Make a shift!
GO TO WORK ON YOURSELF — WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? WHAT FEELINGS ARE THOSE THOUGHTS CREATING?
How much time do you spend thinking? It’s kind of an odd question and it’s one you may not have “thought” about much. Certainly, if you’re like most people, you have a constant flow of thoughts, ideas, responsibilities, worries and the like racing through your mind at all times. This is not at all what I’m referring to. I’m referring to time spent by yourself in quiet, reflective, and deliberate thought.
I have started to become more aware of my “thinking” as I have been writing more. The more I write, the more time I find I have to first spend thinking. It actually has become my favorite part of writing- an opportunity to let my mind wander in any direction. Even in writing this simple blog post, I took three or four times the amount of time thinking about it, then I did in the actual amount of time writing it. I have also been adding more “thinking time” into my businesses. I am finding I am able to make better decisions and see more opportunities than I did when I was constantly busy multi-tasking.
Time spent thinking, with no boundaries or parameters opens up the mind to new possibilities. When our minds are cluttered with an active to-do list of things, we crowd out the creative side of ourselves. By actually allowing ourselves to think freely, we break away from limited thinking. New ideas, perspectives, possibilities are able to flow to the top. Almost magically, new solutions present themselves once our mind is freed to simply think and reflect. Sometimes we can try to think of a solution to a problem logically for hours on end, but when we finally let go and let our mind wander, inspiration can strike seemingly out of the blue.
All Minds that wander are not lost.
In recent years, numerous business executives have gone on record about how essential thinking time is. Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and arguably the savviest investors of our time, estimates he has spent 80% of his time reading and thinking. His partner, Charles Munger, says that’s how Warren created such a great business— “he had a lot of time to think about it”.
Mr. Buffet is not alone. Many other great business leaders spend many hours just thinking. In fact, many of them set side time in their schedules for nothing but thinking. Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-got-junk, often spends his Mondays wondering around his home town of Vancouver. He meanders through coffee shops, sits on a park bench, walks in the forest or heads to the beach. This day of thinking sets himself up for a productive week ahead.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of two fortune 500 companies, Square and Twitter is famous for wandering around, lost in thought. Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame, was known for taking two weeks a year of to think. Tim Armstrong CEO of AOL makes himself and his executive team commit to four hours a week of just thinking time. In fact, a recent study of CEO’s revealed a majority of them spend 20% of their time alone- much of it in thought.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this:
Time spent doing nothing but being alone and thinking is time well spent.
Here are a few suggestions to help you implement this. Schedule thinking time right into your calendar, be it one day a week or just a few hours a day. Make it a habit and stick with it. Get yourself out of your office or home and venture out to new locations and place. Like many CEO’s you’ll likely find it a wonderful source of creative inspiration.