How Gratitude Changes your Brain
There is a lot of talk these days about how gratitude is good for your mindset and your happiness, and there is plenty of evidence to support these claims. But what you may not know is that actively appreciating your life and the positive aspects of it can change your brain and even improve other aspects of your health, including making your heart healthier.
Understanding what exactly is meant by gratitude is necessary if you want to enjoy the full benefits that this practice can offer to your life. To have gratitude, you must first appreciate something, which requires that you recognize that it is valuable to you in some way. The second part of gratitude is that we can accept that these things are given freely to us, by others, by the world, and by ourselves. Being grateful goes beyond just saying “thanks” for something. It is a reflection on how this blessing enhances your life, and that you accept its gift without reservation.
Gratitude is not just an emotion that we feel. It is an act, one that must be done intentionally, to recognize the positive aspects of our lives, the things that bring us joy or make our lives complete. It is an attitude or disposition, and it is something you must purposefully do to get the most benefit. When you practice gratitude, it starts a virtuous cycle in your mind that influences how you think and see the world. You focus on the positive things in your life, and then you notice there are more positive things than you previously realized. Then, you become more grateful for these, and you see more for which you have appreciation. When you practice gratitude, your brain releases hormones that encourage this cycle to continue, as well.
Learning to be more grateful takes practice, just like developing any other skill. It is not enough to do it once or twice a year. It is something that should be part of a regular routine, and it does not take much effort to build this into your life. Here are just a few simple ways that you can practice gratitude in your life:
- Keep a gratitude journal and make a new entry each day. Take just five minutes to contemplate what you are grateful for today and write it down.
- Tell someone you know or work with how much you appreciate them.
- Meditate for five minutes and think about the positive aspects of your current life.
- Write a thank-you note for something you appreciate in your life. It does not even matter if you send it. The act of writing it will have the same benefit for you.
- Keep a gratitude list and add to it every day.
- Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself what you love most about you.
- When something goes wrong in your life, list a few good things that came from this occurrence.
- Use an object, just as a rock or small talisman to remind you to be grateful. Every time you see it, spend just a moment thinking of all the things for which you are appreciative in your life.
When it comes to gratitude, effort matters more than perfection. Even just trying to think about what you are grateful for is beneficial to your health and well-being. The act of considering your appreciation releases the same hormones that make you feel happier. So, do not worry if you are getting it “right” or not. Just do it!
Maria Margossian is a school counsellor holding MA Degree in Special Needs education as well. She is currently pursuing her higher education and certificates for Grief Counselling with the American Institution of Health Professionals. She has been working in the UAE for the past 13 years and her domain of work involves social, emotional and well-being challenges on daily basis.
“Creating a healthy mindset is an investment in your overall wellbeing” – Unknown.