What are you grateful for in this moment….. something about the change from Halloween to thanksgiving?
Every Thanksgiving, people reflect on what they’re most thankful for. This tradition can actually rewire your brain, and giving thanks year-round has tremendous benefits for your brain and body.
Gratitude is simply an appreciation of what is meaningful to you. Zig Ziglar is famous for saying “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for” (1).
How does gratitude actually change your brain? Well, the process starts in your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that regulates critical bodily functions like your appetite and digestion. A National Institutes of Health study found that when you express kindness or feel gratitude, your hypothalamus floods your brain with dopamine giving you a natural high, motivating you to do good and express gratitude even more (2).
UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center found that regularly expressing gratitude changes the molecular structure of your brain, keeps your gray matter functioning, and makes you healthier and happier (3).
WHY GRATITUDE IS GOOD FOR YOU
GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH AND ENERGY LEVELS.
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and are healthier (4).According to a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves (4).They exercise more often and are more likely to keep regular doctors’ appointments, which contributes to longevity.Writing in a gratitude journal can reduce blood pressure by 10% (7).
GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, including envy, frustration, resentment, and regret (5).Doctor Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has found that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression (4).
GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR SLEEP.
Gratitude increases the quality of your sleep, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, and lengthens the duration of your sleep (4).
GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR MENTAL STRENGTH.
Gratitude not only reduces stress but also plays a major role in overcoming trauma (5).A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD (5).Gratitude makes us more resilient to trauma and stressful events (6).
GRATITUDE IMPROVES YOUR SELF-ESTEEM.
Gratitude reduces social comparisons.Grateful people are able to appreciate themselves as well as other people’s accomplishments rather than becoming resentful towards others who have more than they do.
EASY WAYS TO INCREASE GRATITUDE IN YOUR LIFE.
Keep a daily gratitude journal.Every morning and evening, list 3 things that you are grateful for.Try counting all the things you have in your life that money cannot buy.Create a gratitude jar with your children. When you write down your gratitude for the day, put it in the jar – and read what you’ve written on days you’re feeling sad.
Practice telling others you appreciate them.Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.Try practicing gratitude with your family at the dinner table.Start a meeting with a gratitude practice.Write someone a note of thanks that they are in your life.
Look in the mirror.Have a trigger behavior, like brushing your teeth, that reminds you to think of something you like about yourself.Be grateful for something you accomplished or something about your character.
Practice mindfulness.In order to have gratitude, you must be present – because you can’t appreciate the present if you’re always thinking about the next thing.Sometimes, you need to slow down to speed up.The more grateful you are, the more present you become.
Reduce judgment.Your inner critic keeps you from feeling gratitude.Nothing is positive. Nothing is negative. It is your thinking that makes it so.
The more you practice gratitude, the more aware you are of it, and the more you can enjoy its benefits. What do you have to be grateful for today?
What are you thankful for? Tag @FiveStonesWellness and @jackimeinhardt to share what you are grateful for!
1. Zig Ziglar (n.d.). The gratitude journey. https://www.ziglar.com/articles/the-gratitude-journey/u
2. Sansone, R., Sansone, L. Gratitude and well-being: The benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry 7(11): 18-22.
3. Zahn, R., Moll, J., Paiva, M., Garrido, G., Krueger, F., Huey, E., Grafman, J. (2009). The neural basis of human social values: Evidence from functional MRI. Cerebral Cortex. 19(2): 276-283.
4. Hill, P., Allemand, M., Roberts, B. (2013). Examining the pathways between gratitude and self-rated physical health across adulthood. Personalities and Individual Differences. 54(1): 92-96.
5. Kashdan, T., Uswatte, G., Julian, T. (2006). Gratitude and hedonic and eudaimonic well-being in Vietnam war veterans. Behavior Research and Therapy. 44(2): 177-99.
6. Joyce, S., Shand, F., Lai, T., Mott, B., Bryant, R., Harvey, S. (2019). Resilience@work mindfulness program: results from a cluster randomized controlled trial with first responders. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 21(2).
7. Redwine, L., Henry, B., Pung, M., Wilson, K., Chinh, K., Knight, B., Jain,S…. Mills, P. (2016). A pilot randomized study of gratitude journaling intervention on HRV and inflammatory biomarkers in Stage B heart failure patients. Psychosomatic Medicine. 78(6): 667-676.