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,






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!

Repositioning The Brand You

Image – Unsplash

And this time a post beyond work :-). No digital, no product or marketing, just something straight from heart, something that I have been thinking to share for the last few months but haven’t been able to. 

Life has interesting ways to teach you some lessons. Sometimes it’s about learning new things and sometimes it’s about unlearning the old ones. If you are like me who thought that learning new things with age gets more difficult, then trust me you haven’t tried unlearning :-).

To me, unlearning has been far more challenging than imagined. And some of these were deep-rooted values or long-practiced habits that required much more effort & deliberate practice than learning new things. 

Have I been successful in my effort? Well, not completely but at least I tried and I am still trying. Why am I doing it? Life being life has never been easy for me, especially the last few years that have been nothing less than a crazy roller coaster ride. Earlier this year, I reached a point where I felt that if I will not consciously work on my own life design, things will become more unmanageable and go out of my hand. 

I needed to be rewired or let’s say repositioned in my marketing lingo :-).

To be honest, this is the first time ever that I have spent thinking, rethinking and working on myself. And now that I have spent the last six months doing this, I wonder why didn’t I do it earlier?

As we enter the last month of this year, I thought it’s time to sit back and reflect on some of the critical learnings I had this year. A separate post on repositioning myself into the professional world from being an employee to an entrepreneur will follow soon. For now, let me share some thoughts on recent life learnings, errrrr… unlearning 🙂

• The importance of the word NO. One of the biggest things that I have been trying to work on these days is learning the word no and unlearning all the cynical perceptions attached to this word. No is not a negative word and saying NO doesn’t mean you are disrespecting others. It simply means you are respecting yourself, your own views, your priorities, and your own life. I have no idea why since childhood we have been taught so much against this word no, “don’t say no to elders, teachers, boss, etc, etc. In fact, with time I have learned that saying NO is perhaps the ultimate form of self-care. Oh this word self-care reminds me of my second point which is –

• Self Care ≠ Selfish – Self-care is a necessity and it is not equal to selfish. These are two different things altogether. If you are like me who has always prioritized others’ happiness, their likes, dislikes, etc above you, then trust me someday you will crumble, break down completely. Self-care is powerful and only makes you stronger to take care of others. Breakdown reminds me of my third point which is –

• Sleep is precious – We live in an age where sleeplessness is equated to hard work and mantra for success. Compromising on sleep continuously to accomplish things eventually will lead to burn out. For me sleeping disorder has been a childhood issue, there are many reasons for the same, a lot of which cant be shared in a blog post on a public forum. With time, sleeping less became a habit chronic to the extent of being considered insomniac medically. In the last few years, I can’t tell you how many problems in our lives have come due to erratic sleeping patterns of me and my spouse. We learned this lesson very hard way that sleeping less is not something to flaunt, rather be worried about and paid attention to on priority.

• Being “sensible” always is not necessarily good – I can’t tell you how much I have started to hate being the “sensible”, “matured” or “samajhdaar” one in my life. This one has created more problems in my personal life than in professional because on the work front we still learn how to put our foot down with time. But when it comes to family, damn to this trait of being the sensible one that only and only burdens you with more expectations, more responsibilities and more load of managing it all, bearing the brunt of idiosyncrasies of everyone. I think with time I have learned that it’s better to be not so sensible that you are always expected to tolerate the insensibilities of others.

• Prioritize Peace – Learnt it hard way – anything that costs you your peace is too expensive for your life, be it relationships or work. Life is all about priorities and for me currently, it’s about prioritizing my peace. It’s perfectly fine to not win every battle and it’s perfectly fine to give up on certain situations, come what may prioritize your inner peace, your peace with yourself. Priorities change and that’s perfectly fine. For me also, sometimes it has been family, sometimes career but one deep realization that has happened in the last few years is that if you are not at peace with what you are doing, eventually things fall apart.

Deep down if I think of it, none of these are new, yet despite all the awareness I haven’t been able to act on these fully. It has taken me a lot of conscious unlearning and relearning to practice these in my life. I am just hoping I continue to do so in the future as well. I need this rewiring badly to transform a few things in my life. As someone rightly said – 

Transformation is more about unlearning than learning.

So what have been some of your new learning/unlearning this year? Would love to hear your thoughts.