Busting Myths about Gratitude
Updated: Jan 5
Happy Dance Anyone?
If you’ve ever seen someone doing the Happy Dance, you get to witness joy and energy being released at the same time. It’s harder to do a happy dance while driving but that’s exactly what I felt like doing while listening to the podcast The Huberman Lab when he did a segment on the science behind gratitude.
Why the Happy Dance?
Because Huberman offered new research that not only aligned with what research I had done for my book, but was offering such an amazing summation of why my book matters that I just felt immense joy at being on the right path with my efforts. No, he doesn’t know my book exists because it is not an academic book, nor did I publish any white papers or get to do my own scientific research. My book was based on past research, and it is inspiring to learn that new research is still backing up my ideas.
My book, The Ask Framework, is designed to provide tools and inspiration to go after learning about what you are doing right - to not sit around waiting or expecting people to know when you need that information. Huberman offers new research on the most effective way to experience the results from gratitude, which also acknowledges that receiving gratitude provides amazing results and waiting around to experience these effects won’t work as well.
In the process of listening to this podcast, Huberman busts a few myths about gratitude practices that surprised me more than expected.
We’ve all read, heard, or been told about the amazing effects of having a gratitude practice and that this practice could involve journaling, meditating, being still and feeling gratitude. This is acknowledged as a gratitude practice but - to my surprise - it is not recognized scientifically as the most effective practice. What? Why not? What have I been doing these past years?
To be clear, this type of practice does light up the brain and make it more alert and in tune to aspects of gratitude, but it’s not the type of practice that will do what the most effective gratitude experience will do, such as reduce defensive behavior, elevate the immune system, and provide physiological benefits that improve health.
Hearing this made me pay attention. As a coach, helping clients reduce defensive behaviors comes up, and now that we are year two in the pandemic hangover, elevating anyone’s immune system is top of mind.
So, What Works?
The most effective gratitude practice involves receiving genuine gratitude from someone else that also includes the narrative (long word for ‘story’) of how this gratitude came into being.
There are 3 things that must occur:
1. You must be receiving it from someone else.
2. It must be genuinely given and felt.
3. It must include the narrative (story) behind it to make it real for the receiver.
Here’s the interesting aspect of this - you can also experience the benefits of this type of gratitude experience by watching it happening to someone else. Which may explain why we croon over these types of feel-good videos on Facebook, or watch feel-good movies, or appreciate when someone shares this type of experience so we can experience it with them.
I recommend you listen to this podcast - it holds a wealth of new insights.
Take Control of Gratitude for YOU
I think what made me so happy listening to Huberman is the recognition that we can’t sit around waiting to watch someone else have this experience or wait for someone to know we need it too. This is what makes what I’ve written matter.
Using a better way to have conversations in which you can ask for what other people experienced when they share something you’ve done that impresses them, helped them, or made a difference in a great way - is the key to gaining your own personal gratitude moments. The kind that will lift you up, reduce what you get defensive about, positively affect your health, and help you embrace what makes you unique and special through the eyes of others.