The science of dreaming big: GRATITUDE

The science of dreaming big: GRATITUDE

Recently, I had the honor of speaking to an awesome group from the International Association of Administrative Professionals… and we talked about the subject of…

stress and worry.

Now… if there ever was a group of people who deserved to be stressed and worried… it was these incredible people.

It was a room full of administrative professionals.

You know who they are. They are the unsung heroes in your office. They are the people that most of our important paperwork and tasks route through… but they rarely get the flashy titles or the plaques of accommodation.

Well… as we were digging into strategies that help you to overcome worry and stress… we landed on one specific concept that the group loved.


That’s right… gratitude. It’s a simple word… but a powerful concept.

Interestingly enough… it can also be something to help you overcome worry and stress.


Studies have shown that you can not only cultivate gratitude… but as you do… your body starts to produce increased levels of dopamine and serotonin. Now these bad boys are your body’s natural anti-depressants. They’ve also been shown to increase your ability to retain information and think more clearly.

Plus… since they are naturally produced anti-depressants… you don’t have to worry if they are on your ever-changing insurance prescription plan!

But it gets better.

Studies have found that the longer you cultivate gratitude… the more impact it has.

For example, one study published in American Psychologist found that if participants in a study wrote down three good things each day for a week… they would be happier and less depressed.

Now, you might say… “Sure. That makes sense.” But if you’re like me, you might also be asking, “But does it last?”

Get this.

This study continued on and found that if participants continued to look for three good things a day… they continued to be happier and less depressed at one-month, three-months and six-months!

Oh… but wait there’s more! (Read this is a cheesy game show announcer voice for extra effect!)

The longer the participant went… the longer the effect. Even when the group stopped the daily exercise, researchers found that the “Gratitude Group” stayed happier and less depressed than the control group.

The conclusion: Researchers found that the study group had trained their brains to look for things to be grateful for and that started to change the way they looked at the world. So this little exercise of writing down three good things… changed them on the inside (increased levels of dopamine and serotonin) and changed them on the outside (their view of the world).


I can tell you that this works.

As many of you know… I’m a “worrier in recovery.”

I grew up a ninja-level worrier. I am exceedingly better now… but I can go from being fine to freaked in 3.2 seconds… if I don’t control it! (Can you identify?)

But this list exercise is now a part of my daily regimen. And I love it.

One… because it’s simple. Two… because it’s quick. Three… because it helps me to think more creatively and focus. And four… because I can also work it into my daily conversation with my family, friends or biz partners.

Now, I will say that what tends to work best for me is to write these things down in a journal each morning (and even go beyond three some days)… but even if I can’t get to the writing… I do bring it up as I’m talking with people.

Yeah… I’ve got to get my “3” daily.


So here it is: The 30-Day Gratitude Challenge

Challenge yourself to think of three to five things that you are grateful for every day.

They don’t have to be HUGE things like trips to Disney World. And they don’t have to be wildly profound either. They can be simple things like a really good meal… a really good laugh with friends… or a really nice convo with a friend.

The key is they have to be specific.

You can’t just say… “I’m grateful for my family, my friends and my dog.”

You need to think about something specific. Like… “I’m grateful for the way Fido was at the side of my bed this morning. That made me laugh and feel good.”

But that’s it.

Just three things.

Three specific things… daily.

The challenge is that you’d do it for 30 days.

And then just see how you feel.

There’s a very good chance that at the end of the 30 days… you will have started to train your brain to look for the “good stuff.”

And when you look for the good stuff… science says you start to pump your body full of the “good stuff.”

Plus, your brain will begin to get in the habit of looking for more good stuff… which will not only help you to feel happier… but it will also have a positive effect on your ability to perform, stay focused and remember stuff.

And heck… who doesn’t want more of that?

So… who’s in?

Who’s with me?

If you’re up for the challenge… why not leave a comment and let the world know about something specific you’re grateful for today. (Again… keep it simple. But have some fun with it. And just see where it takes you.)

And hey, why not share this with a friend, a family member or a co-worker and agree to take the challenge together? Just see what it does!

I can’t wait to hear.

Keep dreaming BIG and helping others to do the same,

Mitch Matthews

  • Carla Likich
    Posted at 13:50h, 01 May Reply

    Perfect timing: I’m totally in! For me, this dovetails with my choice to follow the model of a Canadian farmer’s wife named Ann Voskamp, who wrote a magnificently poetic book called “one thousand gifts”, (Copyright 2010, Zondervan) about overcoming our ‘fallen nature of ingratitude’. (See pgs 15, 39) She writes on page 45 how she responded to an email ‘dare’ sent one day by a friend to “write a list of a thousand things [she] love[s]”,: the beautiful joy and yet pain of her journey is unlike anything else I’ve ever come across, so of course I want to experience this in my reality! Just as you indicated, Mitch, retraining our thoughts can have a very profound, visceral and literal effect on our bodies, as well as our hearts and souls! Thanks for setting this out on this May Day in the year two thousand and twelve! I’m very grateful (ta-da!) to have been led to respond! Be blessed!

  • Paula
    Posted at 15:02h, 01 May Reply

    I was one of the Administrative Professionals that attended Mitch’s workshop he mentions above. It was fantastic! I am grateful for going to Mitch’s workshop and learning different ways to identify worry and how to retrain myself. I have my notebook ready!

  • Samantha
    Posted at 15:50h, 01 May Reply

    Thank you for the practical advice! 🙂 Today, I am thankful for the smell of a grill outside on a beautiful day; the nurses, doctor, pharmacist, and prescription that will heal my little girls ears; and the warmth of a lazy dog napping on my feet.

  • Pingback:How to Confront Worry in the Workplace #iaph2013 #igcph |
    Posted at 18:18h, 11 April Reply

    […] “What can I be grateful for in this moment” Gratitude is the secret weapon against worry – Harvard’s Positive Psychology department is back! Every day for a month they had to write 5 things they were grateful for (30 days) Caused elevated levels of seratonin and dopamine. And they had them do it for 3 mos, 6 mos, and then stopped. Still remained high levels. […]

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.