Psychological states are like magnets. They pull for thoughts and emotions to support and expand that state of mind. We have all experienced this. When we feel lousy, our minds find lots of trivial things to complain about. We tend to pick fights with those we love and sometimes with strangers. We are grumpy and irritable, and each successive thought supports and expands our misery.
On the flip side, if we are feeling great, we see the world through those rose-colored glasses. Nothing bothers us; we shake things off; and we are smiling at everyone. Oddly, most of the people we smile at seem to smile back and all of this supports and expands that good feeling.
Thus, we see that states are self-supporting and expansive. We have activated a set of neural pathways that start to fire and support each other. Our actions in the world tend to create moments that further support the state we are experiencing.
Why is this important?
The psychological state we most frequently visit will tend to shape not only our personality, but also our future. For most of us, we don’t realize the power of these emotional and psychological states to determine our destiny. Furthermore, we make no effort to direct these states, so that we can experience more of what we want—and then, ultimately, to have the life we desire.
What might be the ultimate state?
When looking at the research on optimism and happiness, we find that these psychological states have a profound impact on our lives. Not only does it feel great to be happy and have an optimistic view, but these folks tend to live longer, be healthier and attract partners who enhance their lives. Optimists deal with defeat better and persist in the face of challenges longer. They find more solutions and tend to be more creative. They also tend to make more money, build better businesses and have a more unobstructed view toward life, with few criticisms and judgments of others.
When we are happy and optimistic, life is good. It’s that simple. We might easily conclude that finding that happy and optimistic state brings many of the wonderful things in life and is truly the ultimate state.
But how do I get there? Use the gateway
Many folks want to be happier, and view the future in optimist ways, but struggle to find a pathway for getting there. This is understandable. It’s not that easy to change the thought and belief patterns programmed into us through our families and through our experiences. In fact, it’s quite tough.
However, the research suggests that there is one very clear, easily adopted method of progressing toward happiness and optimism. I like to call it the “Gateway.” In fact, it’s the “Gateway” that is the ultimate remedy for the complaining, critical and judgmental mind that thwarts happiness at every turn! What is this magic? It’s none other than good ole gratitude!
Why gratitude rocks as the gateway to happiness!
Gratitude is remarkably powerful, if we visit this sweet state of mind repeatedly and frequently. It is of little value (although certainly of some value) if we only visit gratitude on Thanksgiving Day or when we get a bonus at work. However, when we stick with gratitude as our focus, and continuously seek moments to appreciate, then the grateful state seems to work magic. It seems to be the dependable “Gateway” to feelings of happiness and optimism.
How does gratitude do this? Gratitude is the ultimate antidote to fear. It is the ultimate antidote to complaints and criticism. We cannot hold a negative thought while grateful. Certainly, negative thoughts can rush in after we find something to appreciate, but that is where the work lies.
Take the challenge: Launch a month of gratitude
Why not end the year on a spectacular note? To do so, challenge yourself to become better, to become a model of gratitude for your children, to become grounded in the emotional/psychological state of gratitude. To accomplish this, we need only do one thing. Keep gratitude in front of you all the time. If it is on your mind, you will find a way to be appreciative. What gets our focus will become primary for THAT MOMENT. Thus, we must guard those moments from other negative people, negative social media and negative commentaries. We can accomplish this by keeping gratitude right in front of us. Put the word (literally) in front of you. Set reminders on your phone. Ask others to remind you, if you start to complain or criticize.
Ask yourself every day, “In what ways could I express gratitude that will make someone smile or perhaps make their day? How might I discover gratitude for even the smallest of life’s treasures? Where am I missing the sweetness of appreciation because I surrender to the habit of a complaint?”
Keep these questions and the notion of gratitude in front of you daily, and watch the power of maintaining this state change not only you but those close to you. In the spirit of gratitude, please know that I am grateful for you, the readers, who regularly reach out and offer comments and feedback on my website, at TerrificParenting.com. Thank you! And Happy Holidays to ALL.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit TerrificParenting.com.