Last week I ran into a medical problem. In the overall scheme of things it was trivial, but for more than 10 hours I had something stuck in my right eyelid. At the time, I can assure you, it was very unpleasant.
The next morning I was out exercising and thankfully by then the invader had been evicted. As I arrived back from my workout, I expressed gratitude in my thoughts for the fact my eye felt fine again.
The previous day's unpleasant experience had reminded me of something I possess and which it is so easy to take for granted; good health.
For me, being consciously grateful for things – especially the health of myself, family and friends – is not just important, it is also very empowering.
Let me explain.
'TED Talks' is an online platform where people share 'ideas worth spreading' (or so the tag line goes). In one I viewed recently Shawn Achor, an American positive psychology researcher, was sharing what studies had claimed were the keys to happiness.
This was not some random, intangible and unsubstantiated opinion. This learning was based on a detailed corporate study around attaining happiness in the workplace. It found that the keys to happiness were not bigger sales success or job promotions. When you achieve these, your brain usually just moves the goal posts.
Rather, he suggested, the key to happiness is focusing on positivity in the present. If you raise awareness of the positivity in the present, then your brain will reach a happiness advantage.
Put simply, it says that if your brain is positive, it will perform better than if stressed. If we can find a way to focus on positives – his studies claim – we will secure higher levels of happiness.
So how do we achieve this?
I immediately connected with something he shared and which I was fortunate to stumble upon in years gone by. In previous writings, I have narrated some life learnings that running has given me. One of them was a 'gratitude attitude' arising from a knee operation which stop- ped me running in 2009.
Almost five months abstinence encourages you to realise what a gift you have when it is returned to you. Now – by being consciously grateful for things every day – my life has become so much happier.
Achors study is based on doing it for a 21-day period and beyond. In it he suggests we express gratitude every day for three different things. That only takes a few minutes. Next he recommends journaling one positive experience we have had in the previous 24 hours. The next element, ironically, is 'exercise'. This teaches the brain that behaviour matters. It is finished off by meditation (allows the brain to focus on a task) and a random act of kindness. That, he suggests, is the key to happiness.
The only testimonial I can give you is I agree. By being grateful for my restored health last week, the following day's challenges were nothing of the sort. I was as happy as ... well you know who!!