00:00 You’re listening to the live happier, longer podcast, episode 49
00:15 Welcome to the live happier, longer podcast we’re your hosts Molly Watts and Angela McDade. We are here to help you build the five habits of happier longer life and to create your habit mindset starting now.
00:30 Hey, Angela. Hey Molly, how are you today? I am well, sipping our lemon and ginger tea, lemon ginger tea and it’s hot because it’s cold outside. It’s a bit chilly. Yeah, almost October and evidently it’s going to start feeling like it here in Oregon. Definitely fall, definitely fall. So you and me, we’re here again together, just the two of us. This kind of a trend here for the second season and we’ve been doing a deeper dive into all of our five daily habits, really sharing tips on how to build the actual habits and revisiting some of the science behind why we focus on these five daily habits specifically.
01:16 If you are new to the podcast, our five daily habits are one move, two learn, three share, four give and five let go. All five are scientifically proven to increase longevity and improve overall happiness. In fact, the most immediate benefits of embracing these five habits now is improved happiness. Really. Right now, right. Cause you can’t get longevity unless we live longer.
01:46 So on the podcast today, we’re talking about one of the habits that can truly improve the quality of your life this week if you start today and the impact that can, that can be that immediate. We’re talking about daily habit number four give. Yeah. Yeah. Quite simply it’s gratitude, thankfulness and taking action to express those in your life on a daily basis. And I think that daily basis is really the, that’s the key. Yeah. It’s the key. I don’t know about you, but I feel like for a long time gratitude was kind of a reserved for Thanksgiving. I don’t know, Scotland, I guess it’s not a big deal, right? We don’t have Thanksgiving us. Nope, it’s not a holiday for us. But I think not to the extent it was more of a good manners. You know, if somebody does something for you, it’s good manners to thank somebody. Sure. Like when the kids were little right. You know, every time you say, what do you say, what do you say? Growing up? It definitely wasn’t a, other than being polite and well mannered. Sure. Yeah. And, and for here in the United States, of course, like I said, it was sort of really focused one day and Thanksgiving. Yeah. Clearly the name and everything else kinda took a second, second place or backseat to it.
03:06 And I remember when I was first exposed to the idea of practicing daily gratitude and I guess maybe I remember it because I was home with kids and watching um, TV watching Oprah. And I remember her interview with Sarah Bon Bronnock, how you say her name doesn’t look like that, but the author of simple abundance, which was published in 1995 and in 1996 Oprah picked it as her favorite book of the year. And it pretty much catapulted the book and Sarah to pop culture. Yeah. Icon status. She has an interesting story. She actually got very rich from that book, which was contrary to the Simple abundance. Right. But then she lost it all. Oh. And she’s come back and she’s on, she’s been on Oprah again afterwards. Um, how she came, you know, rebuilding herself. So anyways, I digress.
04:02 But that’s really where I remember that ,idea of practicing daily gratitude, , being something that I had never really considered or focused on. And I remember specifically Oprah’s quote and I’ve said this, I’ve, if I’ve said this to my kids, I don’t know how many times cause I really do love it. It was really striking for me. Right then she said, if you are grateful for what you have, you will always have more than you need. And if you are always wanting for more, you will never have enough. And it just makes sense. Right? Well it comes, you know, one of the things you hit in the head and you’re like, Oh yeah, if I am grateful for what I have right now, I’ll always have enough.
04:42 Right. But you don’t necessarily, especially when you’re, I don’t know, when I was young and I was busy trying to, you know, at first climb the corporate ladder, then, you know, get the house, get the, you know, I dunno. It seems like you’re always. I think when you were younger, you’re always striving to improve whatever that may be. Right. So you always feel like there’s always more room for improvement where there’s that, you know, for us more children, evidently we were just keeping score. Um, but you know, like at a bigger or a nicer house, nicer cars and it all came with as you, you grow.
05:25 Right. I guess, I guess. Yeah. But it’s funny because I think even then if we had really stopped and thought about it, you know, if we were grateful for what we had, um, you know, I think we were, and I think people do. I think in general people are, if you ask people, they’ll say, Oh yes, I’m very, I’m a grateful person. I’m very grateful for what I have. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my life, my kids. But it kind of for most people I think still sits in the background of their life. Yeah. I found it because we were moving around so much, , we, we thought about it a little more because, sure. Because we were moving around so much and it was, we always thought, Oh gosh, how did, how did we here? You know, from, from our little houses that we lived in, from our first house when we first get married in Scotland, you know, where we went over the years, we lived in different countries and many different houses. And so we, without really thinking about what we were doing, we did, take a pause and think about, yeah, how did we get here? And gosh, isn’t this wonderful? You know.
06:35 I think I did. I just don’t. Maybe, I’m sure I did. Like I said, I think I’ve felt grateful, but I don’t know that I, I certainly didn’t, um, have the, the understanding that I do now, and that was, that circumstances were not deciding how happy I was. Uh, I knew I could choose gratitude, but I didn’t really understand that by choosing different thoughts, I could actually create the feelings that I wanted and the feeling of gratitude. And I think as well, the whole point of it is voicing that gratitude, that’s, that again is one of the things that, I mean, you can be thankful all day long, but the actual voicing of it is a very significant part in what comes from being grateful. Right. And it’s also that expression of gratitude is what, , creates optimism for people. And that optimism is, is what has been proven to really increase longevity.
07:36 So it’s a subtle difference in terms of understanding that you can’t wait around for your day, your week, your month, your life to get better. Yeah. And then for you to feel grateful and you know, then to say then you’ll be grateful. You have to practice gratitude daily and then your day, your week, your month, your life will actually be better. Yeah. So anyway, even though I became more, like I said, became more aware of practicing gratitude back in the 1990s, I certainly didn’t make it a daily habit and I didn’t know that there was science or anything to associate with it. Uh, in terms of longevity, of course back then I wasn’t really concerned about longevity cause I was young. Right. And I did course, yeah, just was one of those after thoughts.
08:20 Anyway, when we started researching for five for life, um, I was really excited to find the links between gratitude and longevity back in episode number 17 of the podcast, the science of gratitude, changing your brain and improving your health. Uh, we first talked about this and we shared some of the ways you can increase joy in your life. So yeah. Um, that’s a great episode. So yeah, that was a good one. Yeah. We’ll link that in the show notes. But, um, today we want to focus again on gratitude, but we really want to talk about how people can build the habit and why it’s the consistency of that habit that, um, really lends to, well that creates all those benefits, right? The benefits.
08:59 So here’s a quote. Being grateful. It goes beyond thankful. Studies are showing that a daily gratitude practice can help you be healthier emotionally and physically. Scientists are currently doing a deep dive into how gratitude affects the brain and they are finding that it can help with depression, decrease fatigue, and reduce inflammation in the body. So that whole reducing inflammation thing. Yeah, we’ve, we’ve spoken to so many people who that’s what the focus on because it’s the root of so many diseases the body reducing inflammation is key. And we’ve talked about it because most chronic diseases and certainly all those, what we would call killer diseases are diseases of inflammation. Uh, in heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure. Uh, the more you can reduce the risks of developing these diseases, uh, the longer you are likely to live. Pretty simple, right? I mean, that’s the point.
10:02 So, we focus on ways to improve longevity and some of this stuff like gratitude, um, and the studies, they aren’t really, it’s that they aren’t showing a direct causality, right? So it’s not like they’re saying, you know, if you do this two times a days, exactly. If you practice gratitude twice a day, you’re going to live to 102. That’s not the way that this, this works. This is about creating a, you know, about doing things that will help you offset disease and also create a healthier emotional state, namely being more optimistic, which they have proven that an optimistic outlet outlook can add more than seven years to your life. So that’s the tie in, in terms of, uh, creating that, uh, the optimistic, gratitude link. Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s also, uh, important to note that what, what it looks like when people see an increase in optimism is that it lends to people taking better care of themselves.
11:09 Right? So if you have an optimistic outlook of your future, then you tend to want to take care of yourself more. Yeah, it’s funny, I was just listening to a podcast and they were talking about gratitude and this guy wants to, his name escapes me now, but you want us to live to 180 and he said, that impressive goal. And again he does all this, he’s a bio engineered or something. Anyway, but he spoke about exactly that, about taking care of yourself, but not only taking care of yourself, taking care of the environment because of future. Right? Yeah. Because he said, you know there are so many people now that are like, I’ll not be around to see that, but if you’re going to live for another, if you’re going to be 180 then you better start taking care of this. 100 Plus, you know, you don’t want all the stuff that people are complaining about right now to be a problem in a hundred and so years. Right.
12:10 And that’s the thing. If you, if you perceive that your current life is good, then you’re more likely to believe that your future life could have more good. Yeah. And that’s how, you know, optimism is directly correlated with gratitude because those with an optimistic disposition are biologically more likely to focus on good, gratitude than on the bad, personal disappointment and anxiety.
12:34 So this is exciting because this isn’t stuff that we found, uh, previous to the last podcast on gratitude because it just came out in the summer of 2019. It was a study done by the Boston university school of medicine. It’s an ongoing study, I think, whether they have different facets of the same study, but they’ve been studying 70,000 people. So this is no small sample. Yes, it’s a fair number of people. Yeah. Um, women and men and more women. It’s the vast majority are women. I will say, I’m not gonna say the numbers. It’s, but the vast majority are women and they’ve been studying them for periods of up to 30 years.
13:14 They have found that, uh, when they can, when individuals were compared based on their initial levels of optimism, the researchers found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated on average an 11 to 15% longer life span. And had a 50 to 70% greater odds of reaching 85 years old compared to the least optimistic groups. So that’s, that’s, you know, you know, it’s a big enough study to be able to say that’s legitimate. Yeah, absolutely. Um, individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve exceptional longevity. And that is living to age 85 or older. So, and what it says is research on the reason why optimism matters so much remains to be done, but the link between optimism and health is becoming more evident.
14:06 Yeah. And again, we go back to all our blue zones areas where gratitude is such a huge part of their lifestyle. Yeah. And it’s just, you know, again, this isn’t, and I think that the, there’s also research to the, the converse side of this, right, where you can actually shorten your lifespan by being, having negative disposition, negative thoughts, because it’s an increase, again, in all of the, the stress and anxiety on your body, the negative and the negative emotions that lead to negative outcomes.
14:43 So, um, researchers at the university of California, Berkeley, uh, they have their, it’s called the greater good science center. Uh, they’ve take, they take gratitude very seriously and they’ve launched a multiyear project called expanding the science and practice of gratitude. Uh, this is with psychologist Robert Emmons at the university of California Davis, and he’s considered to be an I. We’ve, I’ve a bunch of the studies that we’ve quoted before in our previous episodes from Dr Emmons. Yeah, he’s considered the leading expert on gratitude and they are confirming together with, uh, Cal Berkeley and Cal Davis.
15:18 They’re confirming what’s been suspected about gratitude for a long time and reporting consistently that people who focus on practicing gratitude are healthier experience, less illness, including depression, have stronger relationships, behave in more generous ways, and are overall happier and more optimistic. So, you know, it’s, uh, these are all things that that all sounds good. Right? Exactly right. I mean, and strong relationships, we know that’s a part of share. And again, all of these things are linked to a longer, happier life.
15:52 So we talked about this back in episode 17, specifically the science and the brain science. And the hypothalamus is the part of the brain that is directly impacted by practicing gratitude. And another, uh, another researcher and scientist, Laura Heiman is her name. She’s actually a physical therapist, but she’s got degrees in kinesiology and neurology and physiology, lots of ologies. And she’s developed a yoga method that is rooted in physical therapy and functional autonomy, but has positive attitude and gratitude at its core. So she’s got this, she’s, you know, seeing some well move, right? But she’s also incorporating the gratitude and stuff into the program.
16:44 She says that the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is responsible for body bodily functions like sleep. Yep. Thermoregulation and growth has been shown to activate when we feel grateful. We released dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel happy and satisfied when we practice gratitude. And a feedback loop is quick to develop because we want to do more of what brings us happy feelings. Yeah. So it’s back to that whole habit thing, why do we do things right? Because it makes you feel good. Right? So the feedback loop. So again, this is a really, you know, it’s going to come into play as you’re building a habit of gratitude, but because you feel happy, you’re going to be less, more likely to do it. Right. So, um, gratitude also increases your quality of sleep. It allows you to handle stress with more ease and it improves your overall wellbeing. Wellbeing. Uh, Laura Hyman says. Our bodies are more rested and balanced because of the effects of the hypothalamus so that we inevitably are more inspired, more productive, and more engaged in life.
17:43 So just a little bit of the science again, behind gratitude and what it does for us now, and what it will continue to do for us. Yeah. The long term effects. Yeah. The long term effects. So I think that, like I said before, um, the, that it’s the difference, the specific traits and habits of truly grateful people who have seen positive impact of purposeful gratitude practice is what really is the difference. Yeah. So it’s that the actively doing it, it’s the mindful activity of practicing gratitude that really leads to the highest impact.
18:28 So here are some ways that you can practice gratitude in your life too, right? So being truly grateful to people, not just about things, express heartfelt thanks to others. And I know this is one of those that, and we’ve talked about this before, there are some really great ways to incorporate this into your life. I like this as a way of building this habit because if you are consistently, if you’re looking for throughout the day, yeah. Things to be thankful for from people. Yeah. Um, it’s a really great way of making yourself develop the habit of gratitude. Yeah. And you can even do it in the reverse. You can, you can, at the end of the day, you can think, okay, you know, think of three people who I had interactions with today, what would I thank them for?
19:26 Yeah. And I think as well, when you, when you start to do it on a regular basis, it automatically, if somebody does something, it’s the first thing then that will come to your head is like, Oh, that was a really nice thing they did. I’m so grateful they did that. I’m so grateful he turned up, you know, so it’s again, it’s back to that habit and it starts to happen without, yeah. You know, the really, yeah. It becomes a habit. That’s that unconscious part of it. Right. And if you really start practicing it, the, and I like this part, this advice to be precise in your thanks. Don’t just say I love you. Say, you know, I love that you brought me coffee in bed this morning and be very specific. Yeah. And that, and not just a Hey, thanks. Right. Yeah. Right. And that, that kind of specific thank you and gratitude really helps you from both sides, makes you feel really good and makes them feel right. Because there’s nothing nicer than somebody seeing the same to you. So it, it feels good. Right. Exactly.
20:32 Thinking outside the box, so we, you and I talked about this just a little bit. Um, when something bad happens, we might not typically think it’s a time to feel grateful. But, uh, Dr Emmons considers that this is a way, there’s, that there’s a, of looking at the world that you can turn negative things into a stepping stone. Yeah. No one feels grateful when you’ve lost a job or yours. I have a health problem. And the thing is, is that this is what we’ve talked about, you know, life is going to be 50, 50, right? Yeah. There is suffering in life. Yeah. And the old phrase, you can appreciate the good, If you don’t get the bad. And, and no amount of like positive thinking is going to change that, you know, you can’t, you cannot avoid it all.
21:19 But there is something about being able to flip that situation in your head and, and look for something good in the bad. That reframing. Yeah. Really can. Yeah. And that’s, uh, that’s a big, again, another big one to turn things around. Um, to reframe something. A great example was a friend who discovered she had breast cancer, which nobody’s going to be grateful for that. Um, you know, and it was just devastating to her and her family. But after that, um, she was then a breast cancer survivor, which made her so proud of her self and you know, all the good stuff that comes from, you know, getting through a terrible situation. But then she joined a team, of racers who have competed around the world. And she, she goes there on a regular basis. She’s met all of these rock star women who are also, it is a breast cancer survivor group of women. And they do all of these amazing things and it’s simply because she is no, you know, and that group of woman, but she is so thoroughly grateful that she has met all of these women right. And she wouldn’t have done it without, yeah. She wouldn’t have been there without.
22:45 So is she grateful for the cancer? Absolutely not. Is she grateful for what came from it? Yes, she absolutely is. Right. So it’s just reframing it and, and taking the good that you can from a bad situation. Yeah. And that’s a good practice for all of us. Uh, and it doesn’t have to be something terrible. Like, yeah, that’s kind of what, and he talks about Dr. Emmons Talks about too, he actually, uh, advises you to contemplate loss. So, um, you know, if you think about your own, like whether it be dying or something, you know, whatever, uh, your, your gratitude can increase immeasurably. You know, like, you can be thankful, don’t, you don’t need to go have a near death experience to be grateful for your life.
23:38 But let’s say you got a promotion and you didn’t get the raise that you wanted with the promotion. Focus on not getting that promotion at all and you’ll start to feel gratitude, you know? So there’s a, a way of just, I guess, again, replacing negative thoughts or replacing your reframing that.
23:53 One of the things that I think has been very powerful for, or not powerful, but very much a part of everything that we’ve looked at in terms of gratitude is being grateful for small things. Uh, and that’s, that’s a way of, again, there’s, and we talked about that in episode 17, that kind of joy spotting the, pointing out that practicing gratitude is such a PSI simple, scientifically proven way to increase happiness. It doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. You don’t have to, you know, sit there and, yeah, I mean it could just take a second, right. But it’s that the easy practices such as keeping a daily gratitude, journal, writing thank you notes, meditating on the good, all of those things can improve our health and wellbeing and enhance our relationships. Um, get us better sleep and heighten our feeling of connectedness, which again, all of these things have been basically proven to be a part of that longevity formula. Yeah.
24:56 In terms of building the habit, well, we just have to say that again, gratitude journals are around for a reason. Yeah. We, you know, our five for life planner has a special spot. Yeah. Right. It has, it has a daily spot in the morning and the evening, both for either gratitude or, , letting go. And, we did that on purpose. You know, because again, building this habit takes daily consistency and the one of the best ways of doing it, gratitude is by writing it down. Yeah. And again, it’s back to purposely voicing it yes, exactly. And in your own head and to, you know, expressing it out loud as well. When you have a journal like that, you can think about moments in the past.
25:45 Like I said, you can track the things that people do for you in the day and you know, write out a simple thank you in your, your gratitude journal. You can write down this, uh, is a tool or of giving thanks by spending quality time. Write down the names of at least five people that you would love to get a phone call, a letter, or even a text from you who would, who would love that and choose one person. And set aside, at least an hour of your time that you will devote just to being with them. Yeah, write a note. Thank you. Notes are always a great way of expressing your gratitude. And there are actually opportunities like, uh, operation gratitude that is for people who you can write thank you notes to military members. Yes. It’s anonymous. Yeah. Right. Which, but it’d be a great way to help you build that habit. A gratitude meditation. Always a great way to build habit. Again, just being able to focus on things that you’re grateful for. Like the warm, you know, say the warmth of the sun. Not that it’s here today, here in Oregon.
26:54 Okay. This is not gratitude. Yeah. We’re in fall and we’re grateful for the beautiful colorful leaves that we are. Exactly. And Oregon is. I’m grateful for the ginger tea. Thank you. Go see. I’m very grateful for that. Yes. Um, uh, so anyway, if you inhale, you’re grateful for something and exhale, focus on a world, um, on saying, I’m so thankful for all I have. Uh, another trick would be to set a timer twice a day and just say out loud, right then things or write down three things that you’re grateful for.
27:28 Just with, as with any habit, right. The idea is to do the things that make it easy or make it obvious. So make it obvious. We would say, you know, put that gratitude journal right there on your, on your bedside. Make it attractive. So being able to climb into bed, you know, maybe turn on a little music, have a little cup of tea if it’s not, decaf at night. Well if that bothers you. You can drink it. Decaf doesn’t bother me. Um, but you know, make it, uh, make it, uh, make it an attractive, cozy time so that you’re, you know, you want to do it right. Comfortable and pleasant. Cause I said like I’d probably turn on, uh, you know, some sort of podcast or book in the background or, but yeah, or nice music. Yeah. So I have a playlist and it’s called, wordless wonders. Oh nice. And it’s just music. Yeah.
28:25 So that’s I mean, it’s kind of nice and then make it easy. So, you know, day one, just tell yourself I’m going to write a sentence, right. Doesn’t have to be a novel. And you don’t have to do five minutes if that’s, you know, but just, it’s the consistency as with any other habit. It’s the consistency of doing it every day and being able to celebrate the fact that you did it every day. That’s gonna really cement the habit.
28:52 Yeah. And make it satisfying. So, you know, we’re trying to focus on feeling happy and relaxed. And this is again, same thing will apply to let go. Yeah. The idea is to create a, a nice, pleasant feeling. Well, if you think about, um, if somebody does something for you, you, if somebody comes into your life and for whatever it is they do or say you are grateful for it and it makes you feel good. So then revisiting that before you go to bed, you’re doubling that. So there it is satisfying by simply revisiting it. So make it easy. Make it, I mean, make it obvious, make it easy, make it attractive, make it satisfying, easy ways to build the habit of gratitude. And, uh, as with all of our other habits, it, they’re all kind of intertwined. Right. So this one really, we always say it’s kind of the inverse of let it go. Um, and we’ll be talking about that next week.
30:02 So I think that pretty well sums up how to build the habit of gratitude, why you should build the habit of gratitude and we’ve got some great things we’ll share with you in the show notes. But for now we can say see you next week. See you then.
30:20 Thanks for listening to the live happier, longer podcast. Now it’s time to move, learn, share, give and let go. Five daily habits to make the rest of your life the best of your life. See you next week.
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Ep. #17 The Science Of Gratitude-Changing your Brain and Improving Your Health