Why does the glass appear half empty?

Recently, on CNN, I saw this heart-rending, yet inspiring story of 20-year-old Joe Dimeo receiving the world’s first face and hand transplant. Badly burnt in a car crash, Joe’s face and arms were practically destroyed.

Yet, despite the overwhelming tragedy, he recovered and was soon working out with his new hands. His doctor said that he hadn’t come across a more motivated patient.

In our bootcamps, whenever we encourage people to express gratitude by writing about our life-blessings, one question I almost always get is, ‘What do I write about?’

How about some gratitude for just having a face? No plastic surgery, cosmetic enhancement, or makeup needed — our face, just as it is. Is that not a blessing?

The bigger point is that we have way more blessings than we can count. Just having a moderately healthy body is a blessing many might envy us for.

But of course, we don’t see any of that. All we see is the success, fame, or wealth that is eluding us. We are like a billionaire cribbing about not having hundred rupees more.

So does it mean that humans are ungrateful? Not really; it is just how our brains are wired.

We are not ungrateful, but merely trying to survive

For many millennia, our brain evolved in the wild with only one objective — to keep us alive. And for our ancestors in the forests, it was vital to quickly notice any danger before it killed them. Anything not changing is not likely to be a danger — but any change, such as the sound of something crawling on the forest floor, would be a danger.

Hence, our brain stops paying attention to any sensation that does not change. Just thing about this for a moment: When you are sitting, your body is in touch with the chair at so many points but we don’t notice any sensation once we sit down. Yet, we immediately notice an ant crawling on our skin.

Same goes for smell. We get desensitized to any smell – that is why people living near a smelly place can’t smell anything at all.

Here is my hypothesis: Our brain tries to look out for the changes and to not be overwhelmed, it has to stop noticing what is NOT changing. In other words, our brain takes things for granted if they don’t change.

However, just because something was good for our survival does mean that it is also good for our happiness — at least, not all the time.

That is why, we need to sometimes act against our natural instinct. And one such thing is expressing gratitude.

Why gratitude can change our life

In many of our bootcamps, during this exercise, we ask people to write about the blessings and positive things in their lives. The glass is not half full – it is 95% full. We ask people to look for that 95%.

Feeling gratitude improves optimism, which in turn, improves mental health.

Hence, here is my suggestion: Make gratitude a daily practice. Don’t expect any magic. Give it time and patience. Make it a part of your routine.

That is how we change our life, bit by bit.

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