As someone who has a big interest in gratitude, I was delighted to come across Danielle Craig’s excellent Happiness in Progress podcast episode where she poses the question- should I always be grateful?
As Danielle rightly points out, you don’t have to be grateful all of the time, but you always have something in your life that you can be grateful for.
And even though there may always be something in your life to be grateful for, that still doesn’t mean that you should always be grateful.
You see, you can’t “should” a feeling.
And gratitude is defined as a positive emotion-so it’s a feeling.
Simply expressing gratitude or telling yourself you’re grateful is meaningless and can actually be harmful unless you actually feel the gratitude.
As Barabara Fredrickson points out in her excellent book Positivity: “Positive words not matched by positive feelings wash the body in stress hormones”.
Now some people are fortunate enough to be naturally grateful- like my wife.
Rarely a day goes by without Rosie expressing gratitude for something in her life. And I know when she’s expressing it, that there is real, heartfelt appreciation behind her words.
She feels the gratitude.
Get a free, breakthrough, happiness exercise
But for a lot of people (including me), gratitude doesn’t come so easy.
Between a busy work life and a hectic homelife, we can get stretched and stressed.
When you combine this with the human brain’s built-in negativity bias, it’s not surprising that many of us find it difficult to appreciate the good we have in our everyday lives.
Another reason why some people are more grateful than others is purely down to genetics- people who express and feel gratitude have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus.*
But, and here’s the really interesting part - despite the fact you might be stressed and stretched, and despite the fact you may not be genetically more grateful than other people, you can become more grateful, and as a result, happier.
Breakthroughs in the field of neuroscience show we can rewire our brains for happiness.
As the neuroscientist Alex Korb wrote in his excellent book The Upward Spiral: “there’s a gratitude circuit in your brain, badly in need of a workout. Strengthening that circuit brings the power to elevate your physical and mental health, boost happiness, improve sleep, and help you feel more connected to other people.”
In short, by practicing gratitude you can create new and strengthen existing neural connections. And the more you do this, the stronger your gratitude circuitry becomes.
Get a free, breakthrough, happiness exercise
So the next obvious question is- how can you practice gratitude?
And more importantly, how can you practice it in a way that keeps it fresh, enjoyable and effective?
Over the years, I practiced various gratitude techniques, including gratitude journaling.
But the effectiveness of each technique diminished with time. I found them to be too premeditated, too organised and they also lacked variety (or it was difficult to add variety).
I needed a different type of exercise.
Guided by breakthroughs in the fields of neuroscience and positive psychology, I developed my own practice that I call Lite Mind.
One of the central elements in Lite Mind are short exercises rooted in experience dependent neuroplasticity.
This refers to the brain capacity to develop new neural pathways by thinking of things that make us happy, that bring joy or that create any type of positive feeling,
When we let these good thoughts sink in for a few seconds, we can train our brains to naturally tune into the good in our everyday lives.
In doing so, we become more aware, more appreciative and as a result more grateful for all of the little things in our lives.
The Lite Mind exercises are short audio files that you listen to and engage with.
The morning exercises are only about 2 minutes long while the evening ones are between 8-10 minutes.
You don’t practice the exercises every day- this is important as the practice never becomes a chore- it’s something that you look forward to doing.
With 64 audio files in total, there is a huge amount of variety and while gratitude is the main element in most of the exercises, other happiness techniques are also practised including compassion, empathy, joy, love and intention.
Practising these exercises gives the gratitude circuit in my brain a regular and very enjoyable workout. And this has a significant impact on my happiness levels.
So, getting back to Danielle’s question: should I be more grateful? Definitely not.
Am I more grateful? Definitely yes.
*(Zahn, Garrido, Moll, & Grafman, 2014).
Get Lite Mind for free: To show you how amazing the Lite Mind exercises are, simply click here to get a free, breakthrough happiness exercise.
About the author
Caemin O Connor is the creator of Lite Mind, a breakthrough technique that helps busy people have a happier and more fulfilled life.
After years of practicing and teaching meditation, Caemin got frustrated and a little bored with it.
So he started researching and developing new techniques.
He focused on happiness, as he realized the real reason why people try meditation, or any form of self improvement, is because they simply want to be happier.
Caemin spent years studying happiness with a particular focus on neuroscience and positive psychology.
The end result is Lite Mind.
Lite Mind was developed for busy people/parents who feel so stretched and stressed that they’re unable to appreciate the good they have in their lives.
Also, because they're so busy, they feel as if life is bypassing them and they’ll never have the time to do the things that they are passionate about, that they’ve always wanted to do.
There are 2 key elements to Lite Mind:
- Short exercises that rewire your brain so that you naturally tune into and appreciate the good in your everyday life.
- Exercises that show you how to find and add purpose.
Pre-pandemic Caemin taught Lite Mind in-person.
He has spent the last 2 years developing Lite Mind as an online course and it officially launched in January 2022.