Hack your brain with gratitude

Posted by Diana Hennessy on 8 January 2014

The SilverStripe Gratitude Wall
I have been reading a lot about 'Brain Science' (not the official term FYI) as brains are cool, and complex. And squishy.

There have been several scientific studies about creativity, and what encourages it, and there are some things that we can do for ourselves to make our brains more creative. One of the findings is that happy thoughts (and therefore dopamine that is flushed through the brain as a result of happy feelings) tend to also flush the areas that creativity is thought to be based. Thus, making us more inspired, creative and productive.

I decided to do an experiment with our ‘SilverStriper’s’ as the 'subjects' (otherwise known as guinea pigs) to see if we could proactively change our thought processes. Although already an amazing place to work, I wanted to see just how far we could go. It has been proven that with 21 days of positive thoughts and actions you can actually re-programme your synapsis to be permanently more positive.

The following video outlines some ideas around positive psychology.

So some of the ideas were to do things like meditate, random acts of kindness, journaling and exercise, but the one I decided to try was the '3 Gratitudes' - writing down 3 things every day for which we were grateful. These didn't have to be big things, just like 'I am grateful for the Support Fort' (our amazing support team) or 'I am grateful for free coffee' - but the very act of thinking of something to be grateful for makes your brain smile.

We had slightly less than 21 days before Christmas, but I thought it would be a good time to for SilverStripe to give it a go. We set up a wall for which we could add Post-it notes on the fly - it was jumped upon enthusiastically by several team members, some even asking if they could add more than 3 a day!

It is now post Christmas break, and I can say that the experiment was successful from my perspective, although hard to judge other participants feelings from it. The range of gratitudes were amazing - from work related, environment related, funny, some quite personal and heartfelt. There were many who joined me on this experiment, with some of my favourite gratitudes being (from many different people):

  • Great design.
  • A new year at SilverStripe.
  • People coming through with awesome content.
  • Stable environments.
  • Nice clients.
  • Interesting books.
  • Summer days.
  • An awesome wife whom I love lots.
  • Great team work under pressure.

From my point of view, the end of the year was quite full on and stressful, so forcing myself to stop and write something positive really did help. I often found myself shouting how grateful I was that it was nearly time to have a holiday, but all in all, I found it did really make you think about the good things and less about the things that can block up your mojo. Sometimes finding things are hard, sometimes easy, sometimes reading others inspires yours.

I am going to keep the gratitude wall there long term now, and make it a more permanent feature for our office. If there was a way of tracking our creativity progress I would love to try it, but either way, a positive workplace can only be a good thing. We will also try and post the week’s top gratitudes on our Facebook page so you can see how we are doing. I hope you add some of your own to the list. If anyone has any other suggestions that have worked for them, we’d love to hear about them!

Diana HennessyAs someone who is passionate about business, Diana has a diverse background in many industries, most notably in a marketing or project management capacity. No matter which direction she went, she was always handed a website to upgrade, create, design, or manage. She took this as a sign to head into the web industry, and has since worked as a project manager combining her knowledge of business and marketing to help clients achieve their project vision.

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  • I have found that the more grateful I ma for everything in my life, the more wonderful things show up there.

    Its not that and the more I do this, the more I find it is easy to be grateful for everything. And consequently, more great things show up.

    Posted by Stephen Anderson, 7 months ago @swanderson15

  • Great article Diana. This sounds like an awesome experiment - we might try it here @ the kindleman office. For more positive mind support, check out www.thehappiempire.com which has loads of this sort of thing. : )

    Posted by Will, 7 months ago @asecondwill

  • This is a great blog post, Diana, very interesting stuff. It's long been said that a happy worker is a productive worker, so it makes sense to have an organisational methodology in place to help staff feel loved. Good to see it's working at SS HQ!

    Posted by Colin Tucker, 7 months ago @colintucker

  • Thats a good thing to do Cam - bring them in the office and lets all do it!

    There was also this that I did last year - http://100daysproject.co.nz/about

    It was great for being actively challenged with creativity...

    Posted by Diana Hennessy, 8 months ago @excapeartist

  • One year I decided to do a creative thing every morning, everyday of the year to kickstart my brain before getting into writing code.

    I ended up doing a piece of origami everyday for a year.

    Posted by Cam Findlay, 8 months ago

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