Gratitude practice increases your happiness partly because it calms your cortex – the part of your brain that thinks, perceives, and processes information and language.
Neuroscientist Rick Hanson describes the structure of our brains using animal metaphors to help us understand our basic needs. Our brain stems developed first. He calls that our “lizard brain.” It seeks safety and security. Our cortex developed next – our “mouse brain.” It looks for satisfaction. Our neocortex – our “monkey brain” – wants connection. Happiness arises when our needs for safety and security, satisfaction and connection are all filled.
Sit quietly and take three deep and gentle breaths, experiencing the air moving in your nostrils, filling up your lungs, and moving your diaphragm and then, on the out breath, moving in the reverse. Bring your awareness into this moment.
“Pet the lizard” by taking a gentle breath and realizing that right here, right now everything is okay. You can say to yourself “I am safe. I am warm. All is well.”
“Feed the mouse” by identifying something for which you are grateful. Take a gentle breath and picture whatever it is in your mind as vividly as you can. How does it look, sound, smell, taste? How do you feel when you are around it?
Finally, “hug the monkey” by picturing someone you care about – how they look, sound, smell and feel. Imagine that you are with them. Take a moment and bask in the love you share. Wish them well.
Take three more deep and gentle breaths and sit silently. Picture the happiness blanket you have just woven draped around you, keeping you safe and strong. You can wear this blanket wherever you go today. Blessings on your journey.