Get Bored and Enjoy a Daydream …

“Daydream, imagine, and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity.”

Deepak Chopra

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I was holding a ladder for my husband.  The sun was on my back, my hands were tight on the ladder, the ladder leaned precariously.  The sensor light that he was trying to install was not being co-operative and it was all taking much longer than anticipated.  I couldn’t check my phone, my hands were on the ladder; I couldn’t walk away, the ladder might fall; I was stuck there, unable to ‘do’ anything and had to be present to keep my husband safe.  I was bored and in this space of focused inaction, my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for a new book.  The cover ‘appeared’ in my mind’s eye, I ‘heard’ dialogue, I ‘felt’ characters.  I got so excited!  I wanted to run inside and take some notes . . . but there was still that damn ladder to hold. . .

I was floating on my back in the sea near my house; I was the only one on the beach.  The sun was on my face and I drifted aimlessly.  I had to be focused so I wouldn’t sink or float too far out, but I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything.  I was in a state of focused inaction, and my mind drifted and I began to daydream . . . and suddenly I got the inspiration for an online workshop.  The whole content just seemed to download into me.  I started to shake and quake, almost as though a stingray had stung me (some do occasionally visit our beach.) I jumped out of the water and ran up to my house shaking with excitement.  I started telling my husband what had happened and he asked what I was going to do with this new info. I burst into tears and said, “I have no idea!”  The idea had downloaded but I had no clue how to move forward with it. Creative thought and logical next steps don’t always coincide. But the creative idea had come and I had to trust that eventually all would become clear . . .

I was curious – was this focused inactivity a precursor to creative thought? I did some research and found that boredom and daydreaming do indeed open us up to creative thought.

“When you pay attention to boredom it gets unbelievably interesting.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

So what actually happens to us when we are bored? I discovered that when we get bored, we ignite a circuit in our brain called the ‘Default Mode.’

In a Psychology Today article, investigative journalist, Manoush Zomorodiexplains:

“We tend to think of boredom as the exact opposite of productivity, but leading neuroscientists are starting to believe that boredom is the secret sauce that can 10x creative potential. Your brain has a resting state that scientists are calling ‘default mode.’

‘Default mode’ is like the screensaver on your computer that comes on to keep things moving when there’s not a whole lot going on. It is your brain on autopilot and it switches on when we’re doing menial activities like washing dishes or going through predictable, daily routines like driving to work or school.”

One study found that people who want to come up with creative ideas would do well to let their minds drift. The study reported in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who allow themselves to become bored  “are more likely to engage in sensation seeking.”  When bored, people look for things that engage their minds and stimulate the brain’s reward centers; and these people tend toward more “divergent thinking styles” and the ability to come up with creative new ideas.

Boredom Researcher and Senior Psychology Lecturer, Dr. Sandi Mann explains:

Once you start daydreaming and allow your mind to really wander, you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit into the subconscious, which allows sort of different connections to take place. The subconscious is not constrained by a need to put order to things. The subconscious is much freer.”

Several studies have reinforced the fact that the connections between different parts of our brains increase when we are daydreaming.

In other words, Default Mode switches on during mindless activity or focused inactivity, time that you allow your mind to wander, and this mind wandering time allows us to move beyond our conscious connections and different connections start to take place. Boredom often leads to daydreaming, and daydreaming seems to spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation. Heather Lench, from the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at Texas A & M explains: “Boredom becomes a seeking state. Whatever you’re doing is not quite satisfying for your brain, so it seeks stimulation.”

Daydreaming incubates creative discovery.” – Daniel Goleman

One writer believes that this subconscious probing process suggests that we are hardwired for creativity:

By probing into our subconscious, our brain uses, develops, and strengthens abstract connections that we don’t rely on heavily during regular, logical thought processes. Using these neural connections improves the communication pathways between the different areas of our brain. And this results in more effective communication between brain cells and more cognitive abilities. The fact that neural networks expand and diversify during bouts of boredom suggests that human beings are hardwired to create, design, imagine, invent, and develop new thoughts, ideas, stories, music, and arts.”

Dr. Mann has found that the key to thinking more creatively is to make sure you have some downtime to allow your mind to wander. She even suggests scheduling “daydreaming” time or doing activities like swimming or walking (or holding ladders?) where your mind is able to wander without electronic distraction.

Dr. Jerome Singer, specialist in research on the psychology of imagination and daydreaming, supports the idea of scheduling time for your mind to wander.

Intentionally allowing your mind to wander allows it to access memories and meaningful connections. When you’re bored, you’re tapping into your unconscious brain, picking up long-lost memories and connecting ideas.“

Amy Fries, author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers, explains that the ability to fully access our knowledge, memories, experiences, and imagination helps guide us to those incredible ‘ah ha’ or ‘light bulb’ moments.

“This calm and slightly detached state, which is the hallmark of daydreaming, helps to ‘quiet the noise’ so that we can experience the answer or connection . . . we are able to link up to disparate ideas and even envision things and experiences that haven’t happened in the realm of our knowledge or experience.”

So the next time you’re bored and you reach for you phone to play Candy Crush or check your Facebook page, instead let your mind wander and daydream a bit, you never know what creative idea might spark into being.

I’ll close with the inspirational TED Talk by Manoush Zomorodi entitled: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas.

 

I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with boredom, daydreaming and creativity.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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Special Invitation to Bali!

A Special Invitation to all of my This Way Up Readers . . .

 

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.

― Oprah Winfrey

Escape! Join a small group of women in beautiful rejuvenating Bali…….
The team at Rejuvenate Spa Retreats are excited to be going back to Bali!
This time we have 9 glorious nights at Villa Pantai Karang, Sanur, Bali. The villa is right on the beach and we’ll have the whole gorgeous place to ourselves.
LUXURY BEACHFRONT VILLA ACCOMMODATION

REJUVENATE Spa Retreats was founded in 2014 by Patti Clark and Deb Brock who have been running women’s workshops and retreats together for over a decade. They asked women from around the world:

“How would you describe an absolutely perfect holiday/retreat?”

Here’s what they said:
 
“To be able to really relax and have time just for me”
“Luxurious accommodation in tropical paradise”

“A well organized  retreat, spaciousness and freedom…
but no busy schedules”

 
And so our Bali Women’s Retreat was created with your happiness and well-being in mind. Our women’s retreats offer relaxation, pampering and creativity. They are pure indulgence & rejuvenation – allowing you to take time out for yourself and recharge yourself in paradise.Read what past participants have said…

Your Retreat Leaders Patti Clark and Deb Brock
Patti Clark is an award winning, international best-selling author, accomplished speaker and workshop leader. Patti’s book This Way Up was the Winner of International Excellence Self-Help Book of the Year. Patti’s work has been featured in several publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Mindful Word and is a frequent contributor to Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.

Deb Brock is an established artist who lives on the spectacular Thames Coast, New Zealand. She works from her art studio at home, when not travelling to deliver workshops and retreats. She has a background in hospitality and is an experienced event planner, creativity tutor and workshop leader.

Can We Entice You? 
This is a retreat with a difference. It’s all about finding your bliss your way.
Lying by the pool …waiting for your massage … not a mung bean in sight!
And then there’s the Fuel for Inspiration Workshop!
The workshop is a gentle and inspiring process, using a variety of creative modalities such as journaling, music, drawing, creative visualization and art. Sometimes expressing our creativity can be very personal and we may feel vulnerable. The workshop experience is safe and nurturing. A previous participant said:
“I thought you were both incredibly supportive and flexible. You looked after the group very well, which was very much appreciated. If I was recommending to a friend on her own, I would feel confident that a single person knowing no one, would be well cared for and supported.”  – Sheryl A.
Your Retreat Package Includes:

  •     Nine nights luxury accommodation
  •    Drinks and pamper basket on arrival
  •    Arrival dinner and departure dinner
  •    All breakfasts
  •    Fuel for Inspiration Workshop
  •    3x  60 minute massage vouchers
  •    A day trip to explore beautiful Bali
  •    Pick up at the airport and transfer to the accommodation in Sanur

Cost:     From USD$1,899 (NZD$2,799)

Dates:   Arrive July 4th – depart July 13th 2019

Numbers limited to 10
Book Your Space Now!
Other Cool Things You Can Do in Bali….
We’ve factored in plenty of free time. You can grab a buddy and head to the beach or, if you are so inclined, Bali offers an abundance of wonderful experiences: cooking classes, shopping at local markets, and adventure tourism. Relaxing by the pool with a good book is also a great option.

Bali is renowned for its enchanting mixture of healing spa treatments, refined artistic culture and unique spiritual heritage.

Fancy a cooking class?
Or perhaps kite surfing at the beach?
Or maybe another facial at award winning The Nest Beachside Spa

You know you want to … contact us now to secure your place!
Copyright ©  2015 REJUVENATE Spa Retreats, All rights reserved.

To learn more about our retreats please visit our website:
www.rejuvenatesparetreats.com

Our mailing address is:
rejuvenatesparetreats@gmail.com
Our phone numbers are:
Deb: 064 21 258 0078
Patti: 064 27 777 4735
whatsapp: 064 21 258 0078 or 064 27 777 4735

November Newsletter

“You aren’t doing ‘nothing’ when you choose to put your well-being first. In fact, this is the key to having everything.”
~ Brittany Burgunder
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In Case you missed the This Way Up November Newsletter – Here it is . . . with updates about summits and events.

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more information about the path to well-being; news about the upcoming This Way Up Online Interactive Workshop starting this month; and information about two exciting upcoming events that you’re invited to join. You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

The Path to Well-Being

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
~ Emma Goldman

What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in “your one wild and precious life” (to mis-quote Mary Oliver)? Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by, “but I don’t know what to do to get there.” The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention, and Generosity

If you are interested in learning more about how to increase your sense of well-being, check out my recent article in Thrive.

This Way Up Online Interactive Live Workshops!

The next This Way Up Interactive Live Workshop has begun. The six-week series began on Tuesday 23 October and will run for six weeks, ending on Tuesday 27 November.

Check out a this video to learn more about the workshop.

Ten women are participating from the US, Canada, Australia and NZ. It is rich and nourishing and I love being a part of it. It’s not too late to join us. If you want more information about the workshops, or you are interested in signing up for the next series of workshops, you can sign up here!
Sign Up for the Next Workshop!

Upcoming Summits

You are invited to this fabulous summit – access is still available!

The Unstoppable Artist Formula:

How to Claim Your Full Power as an Artist, Make Great Money, and Attract Your Perfect Audience
Hosted by the Incomparable Nikól Peterman
The Unstoppable Artist Formula is over now, but access is still available.

Are you struggling to get clarity about your work and/or attention for the work you are doing?
My friend Nikól Peterman, Artist Success Coach and owner of the artist development company ZenRedNYC, has gathered more than 25 of the best mentors to give you the top industry secrets for free. Due to her 20 years as a working professional artist, she definitely understands where you are now and shares my mission to empower you.
I’m excited to be part of this event because it’s not just talk … Every training will give you the most cutting edge tools and strategies, proven to work, which you can implement right away.
At this event you’ll learn:
How to stand out from the crowd
How to attract a large audience
How to feel amazing and confident in front of your raving fans and eagerly paying customers
How to increase your income as an artist and finally get paid what you deserve
How to quiet the inner critic keeping you stuck
And a lot more!
So, grab your free front row seat to this online event here!

You Are Also invited to this Amazing Master Class starting soon!
Awakening through Art

In this rich, informative master class, Creativity Doula Alexis Cohen shares her own knowledge and support and invites 25 other experts to share their creative practices to activate healing, inspire connection, and amplify love. You’ll be so glad you joined us! To learn more, you can visit Alexis here.

It’s Here! This Way Up Is Now Available as an Audio Book!

This Way Up audiobook is now available for purchase! You can find it on Audible and Amazon and on iTunes. You can hear all about it here, along with a special invitation to get it for free!

Please let me know your thoughts if you listen to it. I’d love to hear from you.

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.

Buy Online

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.

This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop!

““Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
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There are still a few spaces left for the This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop.
The six-week series begins on Tuesday 23 October at 5pm PDT and runs for six weeks:
Tuesday 23 October – Tuesday 27 November.

Here is some info about the workshop:

The workshop is completely free. There is no set fee at all. At the end of the six weeks, if you decide you want to donate something, you are welcome, but there is no expectation.
Each workshop is live, and videoed. If you miss a day in the series, you can go to our private You Tube page and watch what you’ve missed and do the day’s visualization. There is time for questions and discussions during each workshop. The shared community of women from around the world is wonderful!

This video will answer some questions for you, and if you have any other question, you can contact me at
patti@thiswayupbook.com

I hope to see you there!

This Way Up is now an Audiobook!

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” 

— Groucho Marx

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Such exciting news!  My book, THIS WAY UP is now an Audiobook available on Audible!

It’s been quite a long process, one that certainly required patience!  But I’m so excited that it is finally out there and available.  I’m grateful beyond measure to the phenomenal narrator, Janice Kent.  She did such a stellar job.  She was able to bring the voices that I heard in my head when I was writing the book to life. No easy feat I assure you.

Now I would love some help in the form of feedback from you my readers.  I have created a few images to use as a campaign to get the audio book out there.  I created 6 images on Canva.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, which one do you like best and why?  They are all somewhat similar, just some changes in color and placement.  Let me know your thoughts.  I appreciate it!

 

 

You can get This Way Up on Audiobook FREE if you try Audible for 30 days.  You can try Audible for free for 30 days, and if you don’t like it, you can cancel, but keep the book for Free.  Try it!

As Frank Zappa so famously said . . .

“So many books, so little time” 

So you might as well listen when you don’t have the opportunity to read!

 

Elastic Thinking

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
– Albert Einstein
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The world is changing so fast, the way we do things has changed so much in my lifetime, it’s hard to remember how we used to survive. I was talking to a friend who is in her 20s recently, and she asked me how we survived when we were travelling around the world in the 80s, without cell phones or internet. And I tried to remember . . . how did we survive? We had a Lonely Planet book and we talked to other travellers and we just winged it a lot! Somehow we survived without ever making a reservation or really having much of a plan at all. We just did it.

There is no argument that things are changing quickly, and it seems that many of us, especially those of us born well before cell phones and internet, are running just trying to keep up. But what I’ve noticed a lot lately is that some of us are adapting and learning more quickly than others. So I’ve been fascinated to read about some of the research about how these changes create new demands on how we must think in order to thrive in this era.

There is a fascinating article in Psychology Today, ‘Your Elastic Mind’, by Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D., a theoretical physicist and the author of Elastic. In this article Mlodinow explains that there are certain talents, or qualities of thought that are now essential in these rapidly changing times. He gives us some examples:

“The capacity to let go of comfortable ideas and become accustomed to ambiguity and contradiction, the capability to rise above conventional mind-sets and reframe the questions we ask, the ability to abandon our ingrained assumptions and open ourselves to new paradigms, the propensity to rely on imagination as much as on logic and to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, and the willingness to experiment and be tolerant of failure. That’s a diverse bouquet of talents, but as psychologists and neuroscientists have elucidated the brain processes behind them, those talents have been revealed as different aspects of a coherent cognitive style. I call it elastic thinking.

Elastic thinking endows us with the ability to solve novel problems and overcome the neural and psychological barriers that can impede us from looking beyond the existing order. It’s important to understand how our brains produce elastic thinking, and how we can nurture it. In a large body of research one quality stands out above all the others—unlike analytical reasoning, elastic thinking arises from what scientists call “bottom-up” processes.”

In an interview in Scientific America, Mlodinow explains that:

“In my field, science, researchers are overwhelmed by something more constructive, the more than three million new journal articles each year. In personal technology, we must all learn to navigate a landscape in which the number of websites has been doubling every two to three years, and the way we use and access them is subject to frequent “disruptive change.” More importantly, social attitudes are changing just as fast—compare the pace of the civil rights movement to the speed at which the campaign for gay rights swept the developed world. Or look at the overnight rise of the “me too” movement.

The failure of businesses to adapt has led to the quick demise of countless companies, and major power shifts in industries from taxis to hospitality. But we must adapt to thrive in our personal lives, too. We have to be willing to rise above conventional mindsets, to reframe the questions we ask, to be open to new paradigms. We have to rely as much on our imagination as on logic, and have the ability to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, to welcome experiment, and be tolerant of failure. I call that manner of thought elastic thinking, in contrast to rational or logical thought.”

The way that this has shown up in my life recently has been the challenges that I have faced as I’ve embarked on a new adventure in my career, pushing me way outside my comfort zone. I’ve had to learn how to use new platforms for my New Online Workshop; had to learn new tools on You Tube and new ways to connect with people around the world. It has pushed me way beyond what I thought I could do, and my fear of failure and doing it wrong has been rampant.

I have absolutely had to practice what Mlodinow described:

‘I’ve had to ‘reframe the questions I ask; I’ve had to be open to new paradigms; have had to rely as much on my imagination as on logic, and I’ve had to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, to welcome experiment, and be very tolerant of failure!’

If this topic interests you, I encourage you to take the time to watch this very interesting ‘Talks at Google’ by Leonard Mlodinow – ‘Elastic Thinking in Times of Change.’

 

I’d love to hear about your elastic thinking skills.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Exciting Announcement! Interactive Online Workshop Series!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams”

– Oprah Winfrey 

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Hi Everyone –
I’m so excited to announce a new workshop series! In this interactive online workshop you will learn to:
  • Identify Limiting Beliefs and Move Beyond Them
  • Overcome Obstacles that Prevent You from Moving Forward
  • Move Toward Achieving Your Dreams and Living Your Best Life!

One of the first questions that people have is – What’s the cost?  The answer is simple – Whatever you want to pay. That’s right.  I want this workshop to be completely accessible to everyone that is interested, and I absolutely do not want money to be an obstacle.

This Workshop begins Tuesday May 29th at 6pm PDT
Sign up today to start your journey!
patti@thiswayupbook.com

Want more info?

 

Still have questions?

Please email me at:   patti@thiswayupbook.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Books on the Subway

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss 

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Such gratitude to Books on The Subway! They are an amazing organization:

It’s like a public library, but on the New York Subway.

We go out and leave some of our favorite books on the New York subway. There are new books every day, and they’re there to be taken, read, shared, and most importantly, enjoyed! We want everyone to get involved and fall in love with reading again and we want to make the subway a more friendly and enjoyable experience.

So, if you find a book from us on the subway, feel free to pick it up and take it home with you, but when you’re done, be sure to put it back on the subway for someone else to enjoy.

Thank you for featuring This Way Up this month! I love the image in my mind of women on the subway reading my book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sometimes, the only way forward is up! Women spend so much of life nurturing & giving to others that when they find themselves alone they often struggle with feeling purposeless.  is a way out of this sense of loss & into a life filled w enthusiasm, creativity, and joy!”

Books on the Subway supports authors and readers by distributing donated books to people who ride the subway. And they support authors by putting the books on Twitter and Instagram.

It doesn’t matter if you read for success, like these ‘Ultra Successful People’ . . .

Here are just a few top business leaders and entrepreneurs who make reading a major part of their daily lifestyle:

. . . or if you are reading to unwind . . . we all know about the importance of reading.  So if you happen to be riding the NYC subway in the near future, pick up a book distributed by Books on the Subway.  And if it happens to be This Way Up –  please snap a pic and send it to me.  I’d love that!

Fittingly, I’d like to close this post with a short video entitled: The Importance of Reading. 

What books are you reading right now? And if you live in New York,  please do let me know if you see This Way Up on the subway!
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Heroes and Mentors

“We choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Mirth or passion, sentiment or reflection; whichever of these most predominates in our temper, it gives us a peculiar sympathy with the writer who resembles us.” 
― David Hume

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The renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume, tells us that we choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition.  Well that certainly fits for me.  My favourite authors will be of no surprise to anyone who has read my blog posts for awhile.  I consider both Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron to be, not only my favourite authors, but also mentors for me, in both writing and in life itself.

So you can imagine my absolute honour and tearful gratitude when I went to my amazon page and found this . . .

Amazon telling me that people who bought Julia Cameron’s and Anne Lamott’s books are also buying This Way Up!  This is the highest flattery I could ever receive.  I am humbled and grateful beyond measure.  It absolutely makes my heart sing!

So for those of you out there looking for the perfect gift this holiday season for a woman in your life that loves Annie Lamott and/or Julia Cameron, look no further! 

I’ll close this post with a wonderful TED talk by Annie Lamott, 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your heroes and mentors.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Practicing Conscious Gratitude

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” 
― David Steindl-Rast

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In the Muppets’ Christmas Carol Movie, Kermit sings: “Tis the season to be jolly and joyous” . . . But what if you’re not feeling overly joyous? As we enter the holiday season this year, many people are feeling less than joyful. The political scene is grim and there is a lot to feel anxious and unhappy about. And for many, the idea of spending more time with family during the holidays does not fill the heart with glee. How you feel is your choice, daily. But if you want to feel more joy, not only this holiday season, but in general, there is an answer.

Science tells us that happiness and joy are things we can cultivate. Thanks to the advent of fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we can now watch our brains in real time and see which areas of the brain light up when we’re angry, frustrated, or joyful, and we can also watch the brain change depending on what we focus on. The idea that our brain architecture can change has been termed “neuroplasticity.”

We can literally rewire the neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear, and anger. We can reprogram our brains’ automatic response with a conscious effort to build new pathways.

 

In a study done by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neural Correlates of Gratitude, it was found that gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. When we consciously focus on what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated; when activated, an increase of dopamine and serotonin is produced, which is similar to how many antidepressants work.

Building new neural pathways may not come easily at first. A good analogy is bushwhacking through a jungle. Imagine trying to walk through a jungle in a dense rain forest. It requires a machete every step of the way to clear the path the first time through. After a few more times, you might lay down some stones to keep the path clear and eventually the path becomes a road and soon it becomes easily travelled. As you walk the path more and more, you continue to reinforce it and make it even stronger. Eventually, this new neural pathway becomes a habit.

To add to the strengthening of some pathways, our brain also has a way to ‘prune’ the pathways used less often. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least. Hebb’s Lawstates “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

                    Neurons that fire together, wire together

 

So how do we do this? How do we create these new neural pathways and start to rewire our brain towards happiness, compassion, and joy? Many studieshave shown that cultivating gratitude, or practicing Conscious Gratitude, is the most powerful way to start building new pathways.

Seth Godin, best selling author, recently stated in an interview: “I think that gratitude is a profound choice. It is not just something that some people do. There is a way to look at life as either “have to” or a “get to”. There are all these things in life we could do because we have to do them, or there are things in life we do because we get to do them.”

Godin goes on to explain that this has nothing to do with the truth of what is going on in the world around you. It has to do with our narrative about what is going on.

Living life knowing you “get to” do something is better than constantly feeling like you have to. Godin poses the question: “What is the opposite of gratitude?” And he believes the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. “People who believe they are entitled to something, walk around expecting that the world owes them something, whereas the people who are grateful for something are eager to share that gratitude with others, and that lines up exactly with “have to” and “get to.”

So if we agree that being grateful can lead to joy, then how can we start feeling more grateful?

“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ” ― David Steindl-Rast,

David Steindl-Rast, the highly-respected Benedictine monk, author and spiritual leader, explains his methodology for staying in a gratitude mindset in Anatomy of Gratitude:

“There is a very simple kind of methodology to it: stop, look, go. Most of us are caught up in schedules, and deadlines, and rushing around. And so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all. And we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us because we rush by. So stopping is the first thing … and finding something in that moment … I don’t speak of this moment as a ‘gift’, because you cannot be grateful for everything. You can’t be grateful for war, violence, domestic violence, or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful. But in every moment, you can be grateful. For instance, the opportunity to learn something from a very difficult experience. So opportunity is really the key when people ask, can you be grateful for everything? No, not for everything, but yes you can be grateful in every moment.”

Seth Godin believes that acting “as if” is underrated. “If you start acting as if you are grateful, you start feeling more grateful and you will become more grateful.”

Here are some things you can do right now to start practicing Conscious Gratitude:

1. Choose a time and focus on gratitude

Choose a specific time everyday where you will stop for a moment and focus on what you are grateful for in that particular moment.
I use 11:11. I have an alarm set on my phone to go off every day at 11:11. I stop whatever I’m doing (within reason- if I’m driving on a highway obviously I don’t stop) and I silently focus on what I am grateful for in that moment. Even if I’m stuck in traffic, I can be grateful for my car or a good sound system or enough money for gas to get me where I am going.

2. First thing in the morning, before your feet hit the floor, be grateful

Before you hop out of bed in the morning, take 30 seconds, (it really does not take more than that) to think about 3 things you are grateful for. This can be done silently in your head. Or better yet, if you have a partner that you share your bed with, ask each other to list those 3 things. It can be as simple as gratitude for a comfortable bed, a warm house, and a good nights sleep. It’s been shown that starting your day in gratitude positively impacts you for the rest of the day.

3. Start a Gratitude Journal

Choose a journal that you like the feel and the look of, and make sure that it is used solely for writing about things your are grateful for. How you write this is up to you; it can be as simple as list making. I like using colorful pens playing in my journal, but use what ever works for you. Make it a routine, try to write in it daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

4. Start new traditions in your family — like gratitude at meals

This may feel uncomfortable at first; but with time, the practice of going around the table and saying one thing you are grateful for that happened that day, can become a cherished family tradition. It’s a great conversation starter and a wonderful way to lift the energy at any meal time. Another tradition can be saying one thing you are grateful for before going off to sleep. If you have children, it is a wonderful way to end the day just before they go to sleep. Another tradition to reinforce gratitude in relationships is texting to a loved one in the middle of the day, one thing you appreciate about them. This works well with teens and couples with busy schedules.

So this holiday season, if you are hoping to embody Kermit’s words . . .

Tis the season to be jolly and joyous
With a burst of pleasure, we feel it arrive
Tis the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive

. . . You can start by practicing gratitude consciously today. And if that doesn’t come naturally, start by ‘acting as if’ you are grateful. And pretty soon, what was once an act will become a habit.

 

I’ll close with a great interview with Brené Brown talking about Active Gratitude.

 

I’d love to hear how you practice conscious gratitude.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.