Would you like to get more margin in your day? Would you like to be at your productive best?
Then simply practice a little gratitude.
In his TEDx talk, the happiness researcher Shawn Achor observes, “Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.” One of the fastest ways to get your brain to positive is to intentionally practice gratitude: keep a gratitude journal, display random acts of kindness, send notes of thanks.
Here’s why I think that’s true. Your brain and mine has a finite working memory. The amount of information you can take in and process is limited. Take in too much at once and cognitive overload occurs. Your retention and comprehension plummets and your stress increases.
Your ability to focus on a task at hand is in direct proportion to the amount of cognitive load you’re carrying. If you’re worrying about how to pay the bills, the fight you just had with your spouse, or even the pile of work on your desk, you’re more likely to experience cognitive overload, keeping you from your productive best.
Studies have shown that the intentional practice of gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep and lowers the occurrence of depression. The expression of gratitude triggers the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that generates positive emotions and activates the learning centers in your brain. You and I are literally wired to be at our best when we’re grateful.
No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote so emphatically, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). He knew we’re at our best when we’re “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
So take a moment, and express some gratitude. Write out five things you’re thankful for. Go out of your way to thank someone today. Say a prayer of thanksgiving. You’ll literally be glad you did—and more productive too.
What are your favorite ways to intentionally express gratitude?