Science-Backed Benefits of Gratitude
Did you know that practicing gratitude every day can change you and your brain?
It’s true. Developing the habit of gratitude has immense benefits to your physical, social, and psychological well-being. Let’s dig into them one by one.
- According to neuroscientists, focusing on positive things activates neurotransmitters branded as “happy chemicals.” (i.e. dopamine and serotonin) This makes gratitude a natural antidepressant.
- Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, states that gratitude is “….an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” Feeling good reinforces doing more things that keep us feeling this way. Meditation, prayer, journaling, and exercise are some of these things that keep us feeling good. You don’t need to do ALL of them, and depending on your energy, you may do better to stick to 1 or 2 consistently to support your mood and energy.
- Generally, gratitude improves your well-being. When we think of things that we are grateful for, the parasympathetic response (rest and digest) is activated, contrary to when we focus on negative thoughts. The rest and digest response is essential to relax and improve sleep quality, boost the immune system, and alleviate illness.
- Gratitude changes your brain’s neural pathways. Constant repetition forms a habit. So the more we practice gratitude, we become better at it. Being intentionally grateful helps rewire our brain to be more positive and resilient so that stress won’t get to us.
- According to the HeartMath Institute’s vast research on this topic, renewing feelings such as gratitude help improve the balance between cortisol and DHEA. By plugging emotional energy drains, you have more energy and attention to spend on the things that are important to you.
There are many ways to practice mindful gratitude. Here are several suggestions you can try:
- Keep a gratitude journal – Every day, especially right after getting out of bed in the morning or before going to bed at night (that’s peak time for neuroplasticity!), write down at least three things that you are grateful for–best if you choose different things every day. At the end of the week, read these things so that you are reminded.
- Write thank-you notes – Send the notes to your loved ones or leave them at a place where they can easily see, like the fridge or their desk.
- Fill a gratitude jar – Write gratitude notes on small pieces of paper and put all inside a clear jar. When you feel low, get one note from the jar to remind you to be grateful.
- Let others know that you appreciate them – You can show people you appreciate them in many ways. One example is to call/text/tell them in person that you appreciate them and why.
- Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings – Be aware of what’s around you by pausing for a while and appreciate every good thing such as the birds outside, the beautiful weather, the blooming flower, and more! When you are looking for blessings, you will find them (sometimes in surprising ways!).
I hope that these suggestions are helpful to you!
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