How gratitude can rewire your brain
“Attitude takes you to Higher Altitudes” is a favorite saying of mine that indicates my feelings on being grateful. In fact, not only is this my opinion, but there is irrefutable evidence that being grateful actually rewires the brain and makes the overall health of individuals very helpful. The benefits of gratefulness include: reduced pain, healthier lifestyle, better sleep, stress relief, decreased depression, reduced anxiety and increased energy.
In a 2009 National Institutes of Health study, researchers found that the hypothalamus activates when we feel/act grateful and/or display acts of kindness. These acts flood our brain with dopamine, which gives us a natural “high” in our reward center, making us want to perpetuate the acts again. In addition, a 2003 study states that counting blessings versus burdens, 10 percent of patients reported less pain after writing in a gratitude journal.
Not only does gratitude help us learn to act with more kindness, but it can reduce pain in our bodies and even help us get more rest. A recent study on sleep concluded that patients who said prayers or had thankful thoughts before going to bed actually fell asleep more quickly and had better quality of sleep. So instead of counting sheep, count blessings.
“Who wouldn’t want the added benefits of increased energy, lengthened lifespan, increased strength, as well as a healthier, more optimistic and more relaxed life?”
Another great benefit of sleep is stress relief and reduced anxiety and these also are benefits of gratefulness. A 2007 study of hypertension patients demonstrated that patients experienced a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure by simply using a gratitude journal. An additional 1998 study showed that 23 percent of heart patients decreased cortisol levels and 80 percent had increased heart function just by doing the same type of journal.
So not only the brain is benefiting, but also healthcare and overall wellbeing is benefiting. In 2005, a study of clients struggling with depression actually showed an increase in neural modulation and decreased depression by writing letters of thankfulness, and in a follow-up study in 2012, a whole slew of patients benefited from reduced anxiety by writing thank-you notes. Who wouldn’t want the added benefits of increased energy, lengthened lifespan, increased strength, as well as a healthier, more optimistic and more relaxed life?
Approach this season of thankfulness and giving with an attitude of gratitude and reap the benefits. Here are a few ways to be deliberate with the attitude of gratitude as the season of thankfulness and giving approaches.
Take time to Say Thank You in verbal, text, email, and written thank-you notes.
Count Blessings. Get a blessings box or container and when the day is rough, read back the blessings previously recorded.
Keep a Gratitude Journal, which forces the brain to think in terms of gratefulness daily and then rewards the brain with dopamine to celebrate.
Do deliberate Acts of Kindness and record them with a smile.
Post Words of Gratitude and uplifting acts of kindness to Facebook or other social media sites.
Surround your workplace/home with Words of Gratefulness and Positive Affirmations.
Seek out Positive People to be around. Season the grumpy ones with kind words.
Explore ways to Express Thankfulness to others.
Share affirmative thoughts with others and Smile!
For the months of November/December, everyone who comes by to see us at LearningRx can receive a gratitude journal at no charge as our thank you for being a part of our community. We are so grateful for the opportunity to change lives every day in this community.