You’ve likely seen the Capital One promotion with Jennifer Garner or Samuel Jackson asking, “What’s in your wallet?” That’s the right question if you are in the credit card business. However, if you are in the human development business, the right question is, “What’s in your brain?”

During a recent event with Dr. Jenny Severson, I learned that emotional researchers have identified six emotions in every human being: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy and surprise. If left on its own, our brain will often default to fear, anger, disgust and sadness. The deck is stacked against us and for good reason. The negative emotions keep us safe.

Negative emotions may keep us safe at times, but they don’t keep us or our relationships healthy. For example, when angry we are unable to think straight. We can easily act in ways we later regret. Because emotions are far more powerful than thoughts, fear, possibly the most powerful of all emotions, can overcome even the strongest parts of our intelligence.

All three of my partners are Irish. They’re quite familiar with the following line from the Irish Blessing: “May the wind be always at your back.” Unfortunately, during 2020 the wind seems to be coming from the other direction.

In 2020 our brain’s negativity bias has been working overtime. In order to stay healthy, we need a buffer during this turbulent time. Dr. Severson suggests that gratitude, a manifestation of joy, can be that buffer. We can begin to intentionally re-wire the 86 billion nerve cells in our brain by focusing on something for which we are grateful. Where the attention goes, the energy flows. Literally! Our brains will create the pathways and circuitry to line up with healthier outcomes by feeding it thoughts of gratitude.

2020 has certainly made it obvious that there are things we cannot control…but let’s not forget the things we can control. Claim your gratitude today! Write it down…speak it out…share it with another person. It’s easy to talk about all the latest garbage in the news and who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s easy to ruminate on resentment, but those habits over the short and long term kill off possibility and connection.

As we celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving, let’s begin a daily practice of gratitude. Although our brain, as the following cartoon suggests, wants to focus on the negative, we can listen to our heart and see the blessings in our lives, many of which we may have taken for granted.

If you’d like to join Jenny on a journey of gratitude, check out her new book, The Educator’s 180-Day Gratitude Turnaround, where she shares stories, self-reflection and practical ways to engage in the practice of gratitude. You can find out more by clicking HERE.

Grateful to you and my partners…Tom Cody, Willow Sweeney, and Kevin Brennan…for all that you do to direct the wind at the backs of so many.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training