Gratitude and our Brain
Written by Carolyn King
We have all heard about how practicing gratitude can reduce stress and increase happiness, but did you also know that being more grateful physically changes the molecular structure of the brain?
The importance of gratitude is often written about. Feeling grateful for the body you are in, or the house you live in, the food in your belly or the clothing that keeps you warm.
According to the UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. And our happiness affects our central nervous system which then helps us to be more peaceful and less reactive, allowing us to relax more easily.
And it doesn’t stop there. Other studies show that people who write down what they are grateful for have even greater success with increasing their happiness.
This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. In fact, it seems, practicing gratitude on top of receiving psychological counseling carries greater benefits than counseling alone, even when that gratitude practice is brief. [Source: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain]
These studies have also shown that there are further psychological benefits to practicing gratitude such as.
- Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions. By reducing the amount of negative words, we write down, we can directly impact our mental health.
- Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it. For example, you don’t need to send the letter of gratitude to receive the benefits of writing it.
- Gratitude benefits take time. The benefits accrue over time.
- Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain.
It also important to note that you can’t fake gratitude, you need to actually feel it.
Another thing to remember here, is that when we were growing up we weren’t taught how to handle emotions, including gratitude, so it’s something we may still need to learn.Top of Form
Gratitude and our Heart
Did you know that the Heart and the Brain are in constant communication?
The amazing people at the Institute of HeartMath have been doing brilliant work over the years on how the heart beats out a different message when we feel positive emotions like gratitude, love or appreciation, as opposed to depleting emotions such as anger, fear or sadness. These different messages then determine what kind of signals are sent to the brain.
Our heart beats also impact the largest electromagnetic field produced by the body. Therefore, positive or energizing emotions such as gratitude, have a positive impact on this field.
According to the people at Heartmath [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdneZ4fIIHE&app=desktop]
…when an individual is in heart coherence the heart radiates a more coherent electromagnetic energy field, they can benefit people, animals and the environment. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that when there is coherent group cooperation, it results in increased flow, effectiveness and the potential for higher outcomes. It seems as though the group participants are not only in sync but are communicating on an unseen energetic level. Our personal coherence can benefit our families, coworkers, friends, pets and more, simply by our presence.
Every individual’s energy contributes to the global field environment, and each person’s thoughts, emotions and intentions affects the field. The first step in increasing the coherence of field environment is for each individual to take responsibility for their own energy.
The HeartMath Institute have also found that the heart is constantly communicating and sending messages to the brain (rather than the brain sending messages to the heart). With increased coherence in our heart, the messages sent to the brain are more stable.
One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – experiencing stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them are greater mental clarity and ability, including better decision making.” [Source: https://www.heartmath.org/articles-of-the-heart/the-math-of-heartmath/heart-brain-interactions/]
How amazingly powerful is this? Just think about how much we can heal our heart and bodies just by practicing gratitude.
Now let’s take this to the next level. If feeling gratitude changes our heart and electromagnetic field, and if more people begin to feel more gratitude, then imagine the impact we would have on the world around us. Imagine how much more peaceful our homes would be? What about our work environments? What about our planet? If we are working more coherently with those around us, we are less likely to be in conflict with each other. We can relax into life, allowing ourselves to go with the flow and rhythms that is life.
So, what are we waiting for? By increasing gratitude in our life, we create a coherent energy field, change the physical structure of our brains, and limit the effects of stress on our body.
Let’s begin today to transform our inner world and increase our positive emotions, so that we can change not only our own life, but also the physical world around us.
Start today! Here are 20 ways you can increase gratitude in your life.
- Thank your incredible body.
- Do something unexpected for someone.
- Donate some of your possessions to a charity.
- Feed your body nourishing foods.
- Give genuine compliments to those around you.
- Hug someone.
- Keep a gratitude jar or journal filled with memories of life’s blessings.
- Laugh more.
- Leave encouraging words for someone.
- Make a vision board of all the things you are grateful for in your life.
- Pay it forward: buy someone a coffee.
- Place positive post-it notes and quotes around your house.
- Say thank you before each meal.
- Smile more.
- Stop, smell, and enjoy nature.
- Take time to do something you love each day.
- Think of three things you’re grateful for before you go to sleep.
- Try a guided gratitude meditation.
- Watch the sunrise or sunset and recognize each day as a gift.
- Write a handwritten thankyou note.
Commit to your gratitude journey today.
And remember, Happiness Starts with a Smile, and Empowerment Starts with a Choice.
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