09 Dec 2021
Practising being grateful is about more than subscribing to the latest “trendy” psycho-speak – research has actually shown that cultivating this mindset, recognising when something good has happened, actually changes our neurobiology.
The evidence shows that gratitude:
- Activates the reward centres of the brain, increasing dopamine and serotonin release. Also improving the neural coupling in the bliss centres of the brain.
- Enhances cognitive restructuring, evoking positive thoughts, whilst reducing fear and anxiety.
- Mitigates the effects of stress by reducing cortisol by 23%.
- Lowers blood pressure, inflammation (CRP), and the lifetime risk of depression.
- Facilitates improved sleep patterns.
- Improves heart rate variability.
- Enables people to be more likely to exercise, eat healthier diets, less likely to smoke, and have higher adherence rates to medications and healthy lifestyles.
- Improves relationship trust, loyalty, and sustainability.
- Increases neural modulation in the prefrontal cortex resulting in reduced guilt, shame, and violence.
The benefits of gratitude ripple far beyond the cellular and personal benefits. The scientific reality is that when we are grateful, we give. Research shows that people who are grateful, give more of their time and money to charities and are more likely to take only what is needed. Thus, the practice of gratitude rewires the reward centres of the brain to respond more to charitable giving than personal gain. It really is better to give than receive, but the catalyst of consistent generosity is gratitude.
Simple steps to help develop the practice of gratitude:
- Cherish and appreciate what you have. Don't take anything for granted. Being grateful helps you cope when things seem too difficult.
- Try to focus more on your blessings. Sometimes, it's the smallest, simplest things that help you stay sane amidst all the chaos in life.
- Focus more on simple things rather than the thoughts that make you feel stressed. Be it eating something incredibly delicious, a hug from a loved one, a few minutes in solitude, being out there in nature or being able to listen to relaxing music
As you practice counting your blessings each day, your habit develops and you will realise it doesn't take much to brighten up your day – leaving you free to spread a little happiness around you.
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