Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game, Emotional Set Point, Match

Experts used to think that whatever emotional set point we were born with was our cross to bear forever. If you were raised by a family of wolves or curmudgeons, watch out. Lately, studies have shown most everything, good and bad. But they have shown that people can change the way their brains work and move their emotional set points.

My personal rule of thumb, which is painting with a broad brush to be sure, is that things are determined 20 percent by genetics and 80 percent by environment. We can change our environment, whether that is through exercise, nutrition or just who we hang out with, and change our lives.

According to the "Spontaneous Happiness" book by Dr. Andrew Weil, practicing an attitude of gratitude daily can move our emotional set point 25 percent toward optimism. That's a big change for a small investment.

As part of my Just for Todays, in fact the very first one that I recite each morning, I try to awaken with an attitude of gratitude. I list a few things that I have to be thankful for. Some days the list is much longer than other days. And many days the list repeats from the previous day. But it is a positive habit. To reinforce my gratitude, now I am adding a simple Gratitude Journal to my daily Younger Next Year log. Moving the emotional set point 25 percent is a big deal. And it only takes a few minutes each day.

If you want to serve up some happiness in your life, give it a try. Find what works for you, your own unique approach, and be on the lookout throughout the day for things you are happy for, whether that be a solid exercise habit, a good shopping trip to the grocery store, co-workers that don't eat you for dinner, whatever. Be thankful. It will help you be spontaneously happy more often.

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