One of the simplest ways to increase productivity is through the practice gratitude. Gratitude is not only a way of making yourself feel immediately better regardless of where you are, but it is also one of the easiest ways to facilitate shifts in state and consciousness that leads to increased productivity.
A chief contributor to blocks in productivity are overwhelming emotions–whether it’s anger, lack of motivation, doubt, or just not being that into whatever you are doing. These emotions create a mental state that is akin to having one foot on the clutch and one on the accelerator. No matter how hard you rev the engine, the wheels just don’t engage.
In his groundbreaking book The Brain that Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doige introduced a unique approach to dealing with OCD that can be applied to productivity.
At the time of writing, the conventional way of dealing with potentially crippling compulsive habits associated with OCD was through behavior therapies where patients were forced to directly confront whatever it was they were obsessing over, i.e. patients with a fear of snakes are put in a room filled with snakes.; patients with a fear of heights go parachuting, etc.
Doidge introduces “an effective, plasticity-based treatment” developed by Jeffrey M. Schwartz that helps patients manually shift gears in their thinking. The core foundation of the technique is focusing on something overwhelmingly positive, like a peak experience or their concept of God, whenever the patient experiences OCD like symptoms.
This practice has been shown to effectively rewire the brain.
Gratitude creates the same result. Gratitude pulls us out of our frontal cortex and allows us to access the part of the brain that reside deep in the center called the Caudate Nucleaus, which acts as an automatic gearshift. This in turn facilitates a shift in mental state, which translates to a shift in physical state and correspondingly productivity.
Want three super simple and effective techniques for using gratitude to hack productivity?
This is a simple exercise that can be practiced anywhere at anytime.
First place your hand on your heart and close your eyes. Breath in and out as quickly as possible through your nose 10 times. Finally, inhale as deeply as you can. As you do, think of one thing you are grateful for.
Hold that breath and allow yourself to connect with that sense of gratitude as deeply as possible. Feel it expand to the point where it fills your body.
As you exhale scan your body so you can feel the gratitude in every part of your body.
Repeat at least 3 times.
Think of 3 things you are grateful for each night before you sleep
Each night before you go to bed, think of three things from that day that you are deeply grateful for. It can be as simple and small as the smile someone gave you when you were crossing the street, or how good your coffee tasted that morning.
This is an amazingly simple practice that will have you waking up happier, more productive and searching out simple ways to be more grateful. According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, this practice will actually improve your sleep.
Whenever you’re feeling blocked, simply stop what you are doing and start a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life, no matter how big or small. Making a regular practice of this will transform your life and, according to a 2015 paper in the Journal of Religion and Health, make you not only more hopeful, but also healthier!