The brain can’t have two thoughts at once, nor can it experience two emotions at once. This is why some people don’t want to be tickled when they are mad or refuse to laugh when angry because they instinctively know their state will change and sometimes people want to stay in a certain state. Have you ever heard someone say, “Stop that – I’m not through being mad yet” or, “Don’t tell me that, I’m in a good mood.”
Have you ever been in an argument with someone who is intensely upset, but then their phone rings and they answer it with a completely different tone to the person on the other end? These are just a few examples of this phenomenon and how easy it is to change our state (based on the intensity of the emotion of course).
Gratitude can be one of the fastest ways to change your state. It can also be one of the most effective ways to rewire your brain to become a fitter, healthier and happier person. When you think of something you are grateful for, you are forcing your brain into that good state and out of whatever state it was just in. You are also making it easier to access that state of gratitude next time, so you are also rewiring your brain to get better at this skill each time you use it.
The next time you need to break yourself free of a crummy state, just think of one thing you are grateful for. It might be hard to do if you are deep in the emotion you want to escape from, but you can just think of something you can see at the moment and use that. For instance, if you are in your car/house/apartment, you can be thankful that you have that because lots of people don’t.
We live in a blessed world and there are so many things to be grateful for. Thinking of just one thing can start to bring you out of a destructive state that is unhealthy (and even fattening). This opens the door to a better state where you are increasing the chemicals and hormones that increase health and burn fat, but also into a good mental place where you can make good, smart decisions.
Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor found through studies that “Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months.” Other studies show gratitude increases patience and willpower, which certainly comes in handy when trying to change your health and fitness habits.
There are plenty of apps and tools available because this principle is a very widely-known fact. My current favorite is The Five Minute Journal for iPhone. One of my friends also has a physical journal to handwrite gratitude, which, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, has been shown to be even more effective than typing it, but the main point is, no matter what your mode or how you do it, the sooner you start, the sooner you will be rewiring your brain to get the results you are after.