You’ve probably noticed that gratitude is a pretty hot topic these days. Oprah, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Angela Simson of the Gratitude project are just a few of the powerful women who are talking about gratitude.
It’s a week before Thanksgiving - a time when we are meant to give thanks for our family, friends, and be grateful for the amazing things we have in our lives. So naturally, we thought it appropriate to share with you the science behind gratitude. Yes, there’s actually a scientific reason why it’s important to incorporate a gratitude practice into our lives!
We will also share with you a few simple ways to incorporate a powerful gratitude practice into your daily life.
When we say gratitude and powerful in the same sentence, we mean it! There have been over 100 studies on gratitude and the effects of gratitude on our health, mind, psychological and emotional well-being, relationships, our job or academic performance and success.
Gratitude has incredible benefits in all of these areas.
Practicing gratitude activates and increases blood flow to different parts of our brain including our hypothalamus, areas associated with dopamine production, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). It also strengthens brain structure by myelinating neurons in these areas. Okay that was a mouthful, but let’s gets to what happens when those areas are activated.
The hypothalamus is responsible for bodily functions. For this reason, practicing gratitude has been associated with a stronger immune system, improvements in heart beat and blood pressure, and regulating metabolism and stress! Who doesn’t want to increase their metabolism and reduce stress?!
Gratitude has also been shown to increase activity in the brain regions associated with dopamine which is a “happy” neurotransmitter. So gratitude actually makes you happier physiologically. It also reduces anxiety and depression, lessens feelings of isolation and loneliness and increases joy, optimism and happiness.
Feeling grateful activates the ACC and the mPFC, two parts of the brain that are primarily responsible for emotional processing, empathy, judgement, and the ability to understand other people’s emotions. That means you get along better with others, you have more compassion and generosity, and you are better at dealing with challenging situations.
Lastly, gratitude directly counteracts insufficiency and feelings of scarcity. I.e. keeps us feeling scared we won’t have enough. Gratitude increases satisfaction and has us less likely to seek external sources of happiness, satisfaction, etc.
Want to exercise more? Gratitude is also associated with increased amounts of exercise.
Ready to sleep better? People who regularly practice gratitude get more sleep too.
Gratitude gives you more energy, increased athletic performance, improved self-esteem, enthusiasm, attentiveness and determination!
So are you convinced that practicing gratitude could be exactly what you need in your life right now?
We hope so and we want to show you how! Thankfully it’s very simple and doesn’t require much effort or energy!
Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Write a thank you note. It’s as simple as that! Maybe even try writing thank you notes or gratitude notes (why you’re grateful for them) on Thanksgiving! Place the notes on each person’s place at the dining table or pass them out when you sit down for dinner.
2. Make a gratitude jar, journal, or list. Bonus points if you make the list right before bed and choose something different every day. Be as specific as you can. Notice new things every day.
3. Write someone a letter expressing your gratitude. Bonus happiness points if you read the person the letter.
4. Thinking about what you have vs. what others don’t.
5. Meditate and focus on the things that you are grateful for.
6. Choose one person every day to thank or express gratitude to. Double bonus happiness points if you tell your boyfriend or spouse why you’re grateful for them every day.
7. The simplest way, close your eyes think of something you are grateful for. Say thank you (in your mind) to the person or thing that you are grateful for and focus on what it feels like to be grateful. Take a deep breath and breathe in even more gratitude.
Let us know how your gratitude practice goes this week! Don't forget to spread the gratitude to others and pass this on!