'Eat Pray Love' author Elizabeth Gilbert posted a picture of herself holding a huge, and I mean adult arm circumference sized, glass jar, shaped like a bubble. Inside the jar was hundreds and perhaps thousands of small, folded notes. On each note was something that had happened to her that day she was grateful for. In her caption she talked about how when she was feeling low, or overwhelmed, she could reach into the jar and pull out a handful of moments that re-bolstered her spirits. Her daily gratitude practice has stuck with me and I have just worked out why.
As humans we have an innate, biological wiring, to sense danger in the environment. We scan for it, so that we can be sure we are safe. This means that we have a preference for scanning the negative. When you focus yourself to write down positive experiences from even the most challenging day, you influence your perception of that day and change your experience.
There is a ratio positive psychologists use whereby for every challenging experience you have, you need three positive experiences (no matter how small) to rebalance the scales of feeling good. That’s right, 3:1.
When you are experiencing a challenging event, you will naturally focus on that one event or situation. To illustrate my point, I want you to think about an event/situation that is causing you pain. Now imagine that this event is a skyscraper. When we are 'locked' in thinking about this event, all we can 'see' is this one building. But that one building, belongs to a city. In this metaphor, the 'city' represents the rest of your life. Practicising gratitude allows you to reframe your perspective so that you can see if not the whole city, much more of your city. Ergo, practicising gratitude will shift your mental mindset.
This is not to say you don’t need to address the challenge you are experiencing in your life. Yes, you must do that. This is to remind you there are different perspectives that can be taken. Perspectives which allow you to view the same event from other angles. Unsurprisingly, solutions are more likely when we allow the mind to ‘zoom out’.
How do you manage your 3:1 ratio?