Neuroscience of Gratitude

As coaches, we want to help our clients achieve their dreams and goals. And we know that a lot of our work is helping our clients shift their mindset from limiting beliefs and negative assumptions to empowering beliefs and positive assumptions.

Believe it or not, these negative assumptions were at one point crucial to the survival of our species. More specifically, our brains have default negative bias. Yes, it’s true! In order for our ancestors to have survived to pass on their genetic material to us, they needed to assume the worst to best avoid being someone else’s dinner. It makes sense that it was those who always fled from the rustle in the bushes were the ones whose chances of surviving as a species were dramatically increased.

While we are no longer running from predators in the bush, our negative bias remains. It shows up in that unexpected phone call from our boss, a delayed text message response from our friend, or when we hear a loud bang outside the house. It is completely normal to respond as if the worst is feared.

The good news is that while we did inherit this ancient tendency to interpret stimuli negatively from our ancestors, our contemporary brains are also incredibly plastic and changeable. Practicing gratitude is one way to make interpreting the world from a positive mindset easier, because we get better at what we practice. So when we make an intentional effort to see the good in the world, it is similar to changing the filter on a camera. With continued commitment to this lens shift, we’ll default to seeing the gifts, the good and the positive and be able to hold the default negative bias more firmly at arms length. Like all things though, this takes some hard work that can at times feel unnatural, which means we have to both be patient and give ourselves grace. 

This holiday season is a great time to kickstart your gratitude practice. Start by reflecting on what you see everyday in these hard times. Whether it is watching your family and friends support each other through despite a seemingly endless stream of barriers or finding extra time for your own self-care, there is always an opportunity to focus on what is going right instead of solely on what is going wrong. And don’t forget, this practice will rejuvenate us and therefore give us the energy we need to continue being agents of change and making the world a better place!

In the spirit of this post I’ll start..”I am grateful that 2020 is almost over!”.  

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Written by Master Mind Institute (MMI). The founders of MMI are coach Hayden Lee MCC and neuroscientists Dr. Kelly Kent PhD. and Dr. Anne-Marie Cziko PhD. CTEDU is proud to partner with MMI to celebrate the intersection of coaching and neuroscience. MMI currently teaches the CTEDU course, Neuroscience of Coaching.



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