Have you ever noticed that when there’s a long line, your brain naturally starts to grumble and complain? Yet when there’s no line at all, your brain doesn’t give it a second thought? Or have you noticed that when your food doesn’t come out like you ordered, your brain naturally does a little eye roll? But when your food comes out as ordered, you just dig right in? Your brain is so quick to notice when things go wrong or poorly, but it doesn’t give a second thought when things go well or smoothly.
This habit might seem harmless, but it’s not. It contributes to a lot of grumbling and complaining during your day. So it’s time we break this habit! Today I’m sharing the ridiculously simple happiness hack that will make a huge difference in your everyday life. Watch below!
Several months ago, I noticed a disturbing trend on my morning commute. First, I should note that I’m lucky to have a pretty short commute to work. But I do have to cross a railroad track on my way. This means that my commute can either be 8 minutes or 25, depending on whether or not I hit a train.
One morning, while running late, I was about six cars away when I saw guardrails flashing and lowering. I instantly got annoyed, letting out an exasperated sigh, frustrated that the train was slowing me down. But then, a few days later, I was driving to work, and there was no train in sight. I made it over the tracks and to work in no time. But what I noticed, as I sailed over the tracks, is that I didn’t give it another thought. I didn’t even acknowledge that I’d made it through with no slowdowns or hassles.
And I realized, right then and there, how problematic this is. My brain grumbles and complains when it faces a barrier or an annoyance, but it doesn’t give a second thought when that barrier isn’t there.
So right there, 100 yards from the tracks, I made a decision. If I’m going to grumble when I get stuck by a train, I sure as heck better give a little cheer when I make it across the tracks, train free. If I’m gonna grumble about the hassle, then I’ve got to cheer about the smooth sailing. So now, every time I make it across the tracks in the morning, without having to wait for a train, I send up a little “woo hoo!” I practice gratitude for the quick commute. I celebrate the absence of a train.
It may seem silly, but this happiness hack is something we all need to do. It’s a play on gratitude. It helps us create balance in our brains. And this hack isn’t just for railroad tracks. It’s for traffic, family, lines, and coworkers. It’s for coffee orders, technology issues, and customer service experiences. This exercise of noticing when things go well or smoothly, applies to every single area of life.
If you grumble when your latte isn’t made how you like it, challenge yourself to notice and give thanks for when it’s made correctly. If you complain about traffic being heavy on your commute, express appreciation for each time traffic is lighter. And if you roll your eyes, every time your partner leaves their socks in the living room, then notice and make a mental note every time they put them away.
Gratitude isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you practice. Remember, your brain is wired to focus on the negative. (See why here.) So, you’ve got to be intentional. You’ve got to work to notice and name the good. Your brain won’t do this on its own.
So here’s my challenge to you. Think about all the things you grumble about throughout the day. Notice what gets on your nerves. Now challenge yourself to notice and name every time the opposite of that happens. Pay attention to the times that annoyance isn’t there. Give credit to the times things go smoothly.
This hack is a simple practice, but it makes a big difference. You’ll feel more grateful, less grumbly, and overall, a lot happier. If you complain about getting stuck at the train, you better be prepared to cheer as you drive across the tracks!
PS: Want to get more serious about gratitude? Read here for how to develop a daily gratitude practice.