One of my favorite quotes of all time is a rendition from William Wordsworth... "Your MIND is a garden, your THOUGHTS are seeds, you can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds." I have used this phrase numerous times throughout my teaching career and even created an entire AP Art project around it.... but, NEVER have I understood it with such clarity as I did during the final stages of my new degree.
Last night I presented my Capstone Research Project to my professor and cohort peers. It was the final step toward graduation and the culmination of my
2 years worth of research into the neurological and behavioral effects of GRATITUDE. And..... though I discuss gratitude with at least 1 person every single day.....even I, was shocked at the data analysis results.
The final data for my research ended with a 16 day online GRATITUDE journal writing format (via a private Facebook group). The only requirements were that each participant take a Pre-attitude survey prior to the journal writing experience and a Post-attitude survey when the 16 day process was complete, and contribute a minimum of 6 entries to the online journal during the course of the research period.
In the journal writing phase of the research, participants would post an image of something they were grateful for and write 3 reasons why they were grateful for that image.
Sounds too SIMPLE to really do anything measurable
...... and I genuinely thought so too.
I didn't think the time restraints of this project would be conducive to any scientific results, but this is what the graduation syllabus called for, and that's what I did!
Using this formula to calculate the difference from the Pre and Post attitude surveys..... the final analysis was MORE than I'd hoped for. (P.S. Thank goodness I have an engineer husband who created an Excel spreadsheet to load my data into this monster and could explain the OVER-THE-TOP formula to me.) I'd NEVER seen anything like it before!
But.... Let me tell you what the results showed!!!!!
As my final research comes to a close, I am ending this part of my journey
with a mixture of JOYful relief and some honest sadness.
I have spent the last 2 years of my life totally dedicated
to learning everything I could get my hands on about the BRAIN.
I have spent countless hours looking into a computer screen, read more books
than I did in my previous 49 years (put together), met some of
the most incredible, brilliant people, made some wonderful new friends,
and climbed an educational mountain
that only a few years ago.... I dared not even dream!
BUT... what I am most excited about, is the opportunity
to share some of what I have learned with all of you.
(Today's BLOG is for anyone who has had a loved one suffer from a BRAIN disorder such as Alzheimer's or Dementia)... there is NEW HOPE!
Our BRAINs are genuinely one of the last unexplored frontiers,
AND... the last decade of technology and research
has brought about incredible new information
that can alter the way we CHOOSE to live our lives.
One of the most exciting discoveries scientists have unveiled over the last decade, (which debunks the old MYTH that our brains, as well as our DNA,
are hard-wired and there is nothing we can do about it) is that...
Neuroscience now KNOWS with great certainty that this is NOT TRUE.
In fact, both our brains AND our DNA are adaptable throughout our entire lives.
image from www.nicabm.com
In working on the final data analysis for my research study on gratitude/happiness....
I have come across one of the most shocking pieces of data
AND, I couldn't wait to share it with you!
Coincidentally, it comes at a perfect time..... since one of my dearest,
lifelong friends is here visiting, painting, giggling, drinking LOOOOOTS of coffee
and redecorating my office with me for the WHOLE weekend.
The LONGEST running research project in modern history,
is a 75 year study
done by Harvard University.
This study began with 724 young men, from 2 opposite ends of life's spectrum. One half were Sophomore students attending Harvard College during WWII, and the other were from the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, Massachusetts.
Original data hoped to find
what generates genuine, longterm happiness.
The results of this project are SHOCKING to each of the 4 directors who have poured over the thousands and thousands of pieces of data, which includes: EEG's, multiple types of cardiovascular testing, blood-work, numerous interviews with the participants, their spouses,
their children, and even their employers.
image from video blocks.com
Of the 724 men who were studied in 1938,
about 60 of them are still alive,
many of which are now in their 90's.
The research is also studying over 2000 grandchildren
of the original study participants to continue the data
and it's correlations into genuine, longterm happiness
along generational lines.
AND.... of all the things they studied,
and the zillions of tests ran......
guess what the #1 link
to longterm health and happiness is?
When I look at my life today, I often wonder how I got here.
I can say without a doubt that I have made
many more than my fair share of mistakes.
I have genuinely hurt people who truly loved me,
and I have also been hurt deeply by some I loved as well.
But... I can tell you that over the course of the last couple of years
(since I began understanding the power of the BRAIN)
I put forth a daily continual effort to change the way my brain
thinks, responds, and more importantly... I have a frequent
careful reckoning of those things I allow
to hold space inside my mind.
And because of it.....
I feel a sense of peace
that I never dreamed possible.
There have been times over the last several years that it has taken everything in my power to just get up and move forward....
and I know first hand the overwhelming pain of heart break.
But with my broken heart, I also gained a valuable opportunity to accept, with genuine
clarity, how it truly feels
to BE THE ONE who has also
caused great pain to another.
Knowing that pain has given me a sincere desire to understand
the brain's power of FORGIVENESS, as well as its evil siblings...
grudge and resentment.
When we hold a grudge based on our resentment toward another,
we often don't even know
that we are using valuable mental resources to keep that loop of pain, resentment and drama running in OUR own head.
Holding a GRUDGE is literally
holding cortical space in OUR minds.
You have to learn to
"let go" of the pain
in order to use those neurons to GROW
in a more positive direction.
I know this is easier said than done,
but.... your brain cannot do both!
Staci is a one-of-a-kind mix of JOY and Neuroscience who is teaching people all over the world to BUILD a BETTER BRAIN by using Gratitude to create a BRIGHTER future. She has a Master's Degree in Educational NEUROSCIENCE and 25 years of teaching experience where she developed a reputation for being able to uncover potential in others like no one else could. Let her teach you how to live a HAPPIER Life by using the neuroscience of GRATITUDE to rewire your brain and build a better future!