by Mark Szabo

Ever have one of those days where everything seems to be conspiring against you? Does it seem like those days are happening with frequent regularity? Do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you and it’s all too much? Like everywhere you look you see even more stress? What can you do when everything seems so bleak?

Find the gratitude.

The brain works much like a search engine. Have you ever purchased a new car, thinking that it’s a fairly unique model, but now that you own it you see it all over the place? That’s what I’m talking about. That model car was just as prevalent before you bought it. The only difference is now your brain knows what to look for, so it finds it wherever it can.

Your brain does this with more than cars though, In fact, it does this all day long; incessantly finding things it thinks you’re looking for. Back when humanity consisted mostly of tribes of hunter-gatherers, this was an especially useful adaptation. Our brains were always on high alert, scanning for danger constantly so we didn’t become lunch for that saber-toothed tiger.

These days though, are much safer. For most of us, there isn’t ever-present, life-threatening danger lurking in the tall grass on a daily basis. But the brain still wants to do its job; it wants to keep us safe from possible threats. So it waits to see what we focus on, then delivers that information in droves. Sometimes it’s all the other same model new cars, and sometimes it’s misery and depression.

When we have a shitty day, it often seems like one thing starts it off, and then it’s all downhill from there. One bad thing, then another, and another, with us eventually asking, “what ELSE is going to go wrong today?!” In reality though, it’s just like seeing your new car everywhere you look. Only instead of your new car, it’s “bad things and more problems.” Your brain thinks it’s doing you a favor by finding all of the examples of how the Universe seems to hate you today.

Gratitude is how we break the pattern.

We focus the brain on a new task. Instead of looking for hazards or examples of how this day could get even worse, we want to train the brain to search for the good in whatever situation we’re in at the moment. Some jerk cut you off and is now driving slower in front of you? Maybe he just stopped you from getting pulled over by that cop hiding in the bushes. Maybe the Universe is telling you to relax before your blood pressure causes an aneurism to burst.

When we start finding the gratitude in all things, we re-train the brain to find the good in our lives. People who begin this practice often find that their string of bad days becomes shorter and shorter, with longer periods of good days between the bad. People who master the art of gratitude, find that looking back, they’ve never really had a bad day in their lives. Simply a series of experiences that taught them to love life just a little bit more each day.

Gratitude is one tool we can use to get our brains to work with us instead of against us, and there are a host of other methods too. If you’d like to learn more, check out the 7-Day Mind Shift free email series. Or go deeper with Mind Training 101. And, for mentor-led instruction be sure to check out Kathi’s Total Mind Shift program.