Gratitude Is Scientific

Earlier this month I got a chance to spend a few days at my childhood home. I visited that place after long and got to spend some time there after many, many years. While browsing through my childhood memorabilia and hostel trunk box, I ended up finding my old diary there. I definitely need to thank my mother for this. She has carefully preserved some precious moments of our childhood despite changing cities and countries multiple times. 

I have spent a considerable amount of my childhood days in hostels. In that era of no internet and no mobile phones, our prime mode of communication with families and friends used to be letters. Handwritten letters :). And the most favorite bedtime activities were reading and writing. Writing in a physical diary :). If you are someone of my age group, I can already see a smile on your face reading these lines. Did it remind you of your diary or letters :)? Aren’t these memories precious? To me, it was like finding a treasure trove. Finding my old self, reuniting with the little dreamy girl that I was.

Those who know me in person, know that my childhood was not easy by any parameter. It was tough. Coping up with crises, challenges, and facing one adversity after another. But what amazed me going through those pages of my old diary was the hope and gratitude that the little girl in me had. It did mention the bad days. It definitely highlighted challenges. But every night, that little girl of my childhood ended her day positively, with a reflection post and a thank you note to the almighty.

Pages after pages, the diary exuded HOPE. And,

Dreams

Resilience

Strength

Peace

Gratitude

Life has indeed come a long way for that dreamy little girl. She didn’t get everything that she wished for, but she definitely got many things to be thankful for. 

What I experienced going through those old pages were beyond words. Those notes were a stark reminder of two things for me:

• Journaling is powerful 

• Gratitude is scientific.

Those pages reminded me that even though days were insanely tough but I somehow always ended up meeting people who helped me move ahead. The circumstances might have been full of challenges but I always found a way out. I was blessed with great teachers, good friends, and a very supportive mother & brothers. I was thankful for every little help they offered. 

Or was it the other way around? Because I was thankful, I ended up getting more help?

At a metacognition level, the more I think about it, the more I believe it was the other way around.

Scientifically speaking too, I think there is some truth behind this fact. When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, that make us feel ‘good’. These chemicals enhance our mood, making us feel happy from the inside. Maybe another reason, why despite all the hardships, I was still happy and full of hope?

Things changed, Adulthood happened. Dreams started to accommodate others, confidence shattered. Reality smacked in the face. I ended up being in very adverse circumstances where I had to face criticism for every small thing. Blamed for things that weren’t my fault. I was listening to too many people, giving value to too many opinions. I know, I know, recipe for disaster. But many times, we don’t realize how disastrous the recipe is unless we get to gulp down the broth :). More on that later. (And I will, as my resolve for 2021 is to write on topics beyond work. Topics that are closer to my heart, topics that shaped up who I am. And topics on which I think I can be of help to someone). 

Along the way, I did realize the need to rewire myself. I needed to get back to my old self, to the girl who stood tall despite all the odds, to the girl who was full of dreams, hope, and gratitude for everything she had. I have taken many small steps in the last two years in this direction. I need to do a lot more.

But finding this diary at the beginning of the year was like serendipity. Going through its pages reaffirmed that the path that I have taken a couple of years back is perhaps in the right direction. The old journal acted like a reminder to self when I needed it the most.

I know journaling is a fancy thing now. Empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude are the buzzwords that people throw in every second sentence. But we also know how many people practice these in reality.

Very, very few.

I know of folks who speak big things about gratitude on Linkedin. But in reality how very few of them have genuinely felt thankful or expressed their appreciation to people in their personal lives. It could be spouse, parents, siblings, house help, or anyone. The general tendency is to take personal relationships for granted or undervalue them. They post fancy quotes on gratitude on social media. But when they receive gifts from someone in the family or at work, their first reaction is not to be thankful for the gift they got but to be critical about what they got. I know of people speaking of empathy every now & then but when it comes to giving, they donate only their old discarded stuff. Even when they can afford it, there are very few who have the heart to donate.

There are enough pieces of evidence on the neuroscientific impact of gratitude and mindfulness in both our professional and personal lives. However, to experience the impact, in reality, we need to internalize these deeply. It’s not easy, but doable! I would be back soon with another post in this series discussing the same. 

Have a meaningful 2021!