Have you ever thought about thanking your brain? It sounds quirky. But expressing gratitude could be essential to unleashing incredible changes in that gray matter. Last week, I wrote an article covering the benefits of expressing your gratitude. Today, let’s dive into the physical transformation of gratitude and four ways expressing your gratitude can change the way you think, act, and your general mood.
At its core, gratitude is the act of being thankful, an expression of appreciation for what one has. It’s more than just saying “thank you”. It’s an acknowledgment of the positive things and experiences that come into our lives, both big and small. In a world where we’re constantly chasing after the next best thing, practicing gratitude allows us to pause and appreciate what we currently have rather than taking things for granted. The simple act of recognizing and valuing our blessings has always given us a warm and fuzzy feeling. But what if there was more to it than just emotional upliftment? What if being grateful could physically reshape your brain?
The Mind-Body Connection
Recent studies have shown that expressing gratitude does more than make you feel good; it can physically alter your brain. Being grateful stimulates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region in the brain associated with decision-making, reward valuation, and empathy, among other things.
But it gets even better. The consistent practice of gratitude boosts dopamine levels, often referred to as the ‘feel-good hormone.’ Dopamine plays an essential role in sending messages between nerve cells, and it’s crucial for smooth motor movements, emotional responses, and feelings of pleasure. Elevated dopamine levels, as a result of gratitude, can thus enhance our overall sense of well-being.
But how does this translate to an improved outlook on life and health?
Expressing Gratitude Can Better Your Mood
Like a magic pill that improves your outlook on life with increased dopamine, it’s no surprise that those who practice gratitude consistently report feeling happier and less depressed. The heightened level of this hormone means that gratitude can act as a natural antidepressant.
Expressing Gratitude Can Reduce Stress
Expressing your gratitude can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by 23%. By focusing on the positives and expressing gratitude, we can shift our mindset and reduce the overall stress we experience daily.
Expressing Gratitude May Improve Your Sleep
Taking a few moments before bed to think about what you’re grateful for can lead to better sleep. Why? Because expressing gratitude can increase feelings of relaxation, a more peaceful mind leads to more peaceful sleep.
Expressing Gratitude Can Lead to Increased Resilience
Life has ups and downs. Yet, those who consistently practice gratitude find coping easier during hard times. This resilience isn’t just emotional; it’s a physical change in the brain’s neural pathways, making it more resilient to stress and negative thinking.
Gratitude: A Simple Act with Profound Impacts
While physically changing the brain with a simple thought might seem unbelievable, the evidence is mounting. Neuroscience has long hinted at the profound connection between our thoughts and our brain’s physical structure. Gratitude stands as a testament to this incredible phenomenon.
So, as we conclude, a challenge for you: start expressing gratitude in your life. It doesn’t have to be grand; begin with simple, daily affirmations. Appreciate the air you breathe, the food you eat, or the smile from a stranger. These moments, when acknowledged, can physically rewire your brain, improving your life in more ways than you could imagine. Your brain, health, and outlook on life will thank you.