15. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 7)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 7 – Writing a Gratitude Letter

From Higbrow:

Gratitude can help build flourishing relationships and establish new ones. When we become truly aware of the value of our friends and family, we treat them better. This can start an upward spiral, in which strong relationships give us something to be grateful for which in turn strengthens those very same relationships. That’s why today’s email is all about one of the most well-researched happiness exercise we know of. It’s writing a so-called gratitude letter. Ideally you find some time alone today (maybe about 15-30 minutes). When you’re ready, move on:

Close your eyes and think of someone who did something important for you that changed your life in a good direction but who you never properly thanked. It could be that you’re really grateful to a teacher who inspired your love of acting and who persuaded you to try for drama school when everyone else was dead set against it. Maybe you’d like to thank your boss or a colleague for helping you with a particularly tricky project at work. Or perhaps you choose to write a friend who helped you through a tough time.

In this exercise you will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to express your gratitude in a thoughtful, purposeful manner. Take your time to write a letter telling the story of what the person did for you, and how it contributed to where they are now in your life. Describe specifically what they did and what influence it had on you. Let them know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing!

You don’t actually have to send the letter but if you want to share the benefits of this activity with the other person, arrange for a visit with this person (but be vague about the purpose of the meeting). When you visit them, read this letter to the person. This is a powerful part of the experience and I highly recommend doing this.

14. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 6)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 6 – Practice Gratitude

From Highbrow:

Practicing gratitude reminds many people of saying ‘thank you’ for a present. But being grateful can be much more than that. The leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons defines it as a feeling of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation of life. His research from the last decade has shown a host of benefits; from stronger immune systems and better sleep to more happiness and better relationships.

Human beings like novelty and we adapt fast to new circumstances such as a new apartment or the last promotion. Gratitude helps because it allows us to benefit from the things we usually take for granted. There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful for. When we are grateful for something, we appreciate its value. And that’s why practicing gratitude on a regular basis allows us to notice the positives more and that magnifies what’s good in our lives.

But gratitude does even more good to us! It also blocks toxic emotions such as envy and resentment. You can’t, for example, feel gratitude and envy at the same time. Try to be truly grateful and at the same time envy someone for having something that you don’t have. It’s impossible, they are incompatible feelings.

If you want something to engage in, take this easy exercise: Throughout today, take notice of things you can be grateful for. Make a list of these things – no matter if small or big. And in the evening, take some time to revisit the list. You can ask yourself what your life would be like if those things were missing. And you can try to experience a bit  of gratitude for things that you probably haven’t noticed in a while.

13. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – TAKE THE 21-DAY GRATITUDE CHALLENGE (DAY 5)

Record one thing you’re grateful for (flatmates with the same shoe size, a FaceTime chat with your mum, that free coffee in Pret – it’s all relative) each day for three weeks. Research says it can improve your mood, sleep and energy.

DAY 5 – The Existence of Starbucks

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I am grateful for the existence of Starbucks, because it is what got me drinking coffee in the first place, my first taste, in my mid-teens. It all began with the Iced Coffee Latte. Without Starbucks coffee, I wouldn’t know how I would cope in the mornings. I would not be myself. It has become an addiction streaming in my blood. No other coffee would be like my Starbucks, the way I must have it 🙂

Starbucks, I am grateful for your existence.

Made in Thailand – An Excerpt

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I believe Bangkok traffic is something everyone should experience at least once in their life and an item to be added to the bucket list. Bangkok traffic defines the real definition of ‘traffic jam’. You could get stuck in it and not move for many long hours. The worst time was when it rained, especially during the rainy season when there is flooding. Flooding and traffic put together, especially in Bangkok, is a very bad combination. Bangkok traffic is so bad I can only compare it with joining every single vehicle into one single unit until it is bigger than the size of the city itself. It does make you wonder where all the vehicles come from. It is like a traffic apocalypse. 

12. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 5)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 5 – The Impact of Positive Emotions

From Highbrow:

Positive emotions have a very interesting impact on the human brain. This impact is explained by the so-called ‘broaden and build theory’. To understand this theory, it’s helpful to first understand how ‘negative’ emotions work. Emotions like fear and anger close down your mind and heart and narrow down the number of possible reactions for the brain to only very few choices.

Think about our ancestors in pre-historic times. When a wild animal was about to attack them they felt either fear or anger. In response to this life-threatening situation, their brain triggered what we call the ‘fight or flight or freeze’ response. This instinctive reaction was responsible for their survival at times of danger. In these situations, the brain had only three options to choose from:

  1. They could fight the animal
  2. They could try to run away as fast as possible or
  3. They could pretend to be dead.

The very same mechanisms still work in our brains today. In the face of danger, we respond to threats either by mobilizing our energy for combat or for flight, or by freezing in helplessness, collapsing in the face of an overwhelming situation. Speaking scientifically, those (negative) emotions limit our thought-action repertoire.

Positive emotions, however, have a different function. Instead of narrowing down the possibilities available to us, they open our minds up to new ways of thinking and acting. In the moment, they help us be more creative and think outside the box. When we feel positive emotions we become more open to new experiences. We feel more comfortable making connections with other people, consider alternative solutions to old problems and are able to zoom out of a situation. Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good but also make our brains function at higher levels. All in all, these emotions broaden our thought-action repertoire: the results are short-term increases in creativity, problem-solving ability, and attention.

What all this does for us in the longer-run is transform us for the better. Over time, positive emotions allow us to form new friendships, develop new skills and gain new knowledge. These ‘resources’ last much longer than the emotion itself and are the reason why positive emotions can gradually transform our lives. This transformation does not happen overnight. It needs continuous reinforcement and dedication. The brain can only be changed gradually.

11. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – TAKE THE 21-DAY GRATITUDE CHALLENGE (DAY 4)

Record one thing you’re grateful for (flatmates with the same shoe size, a FaceTime chat with your mum, that free coffee in Pret – it’s all relative) each day for three weeks. Research says it can improve your mood, sleep and energy.

DAY 4 – Made in Thailand Sequel

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Once again, I would like to thank those who have purchased and supported Made in Thailand, and because of how well it is doing, I have decided to bring out a sequel, where the autobiography will have a broader focus on my life in 90’s Bangkok and much more. It is already in the works alongside the sequel to Who We Were. The sequel to Made in Thailand would not have come to plan if it wasn’t for the supportive bloggers, readers and fans. I thank you all, and hope that we can make the sequel an even better success.  

10. THE POSITIVITY PROJECT – ONE EMAIL TO READ BEFORE WORK (DAY 4)

Get your AM brain into gear by signing up to gohighbrow.com’s fun email-learning platform. It sends a five-minute lesson (on a huge range of subjects – money, art, tech, health) straight to your inbox each morning for ten days.

Day 4 – Benefits of Happiness – The Nun Study

From Highbrow:

Probably the most influential and mind-blowing study done that demonstrates the power of positive emotions is the so-called ‘nun study’. It started in the 1930 when a group of almost two hundred nuns were about to enter a convent. Back then, they were asked to write autobiographical sketches of themselves, reflecting on their lives and thinking about what will lie ahead.

About 70 years later, psychologists decided to go back to these diary entries and analyzed them. The researchers wanted to find out if what these 20-year old nuns wrote in their diaries could predict how the rest of their lives turned out. In particular, they were interested in predictors of longevity. They looked at how complex their sentences were – an indicator for their intelligence. They also looked at where the nuns lived. They also looked at how much they expressed their beliefs in good, measuring their devoutness.

None of these factors had an impact on how long the nuns went on to live. But there was one factor which did have an impact – a very significant one! The nuns whose journal entries had more positive content lived nearly ten years longer than the nuns whose entries were more negative or neutral. At the age of 85, more than 90% (!) of the happiest nuns were still alive, whereas only about a third of the unhappiest nuns.

The research community was amazed by these findings. Clearly, the nuns who were happier when they were young lived longer because of their happiness; not the other way around. Their conclusion is very relevant for everyone going through this course. Putting effort into becoming happier will not only make you feel better. It has the potential to literally prolong your life.