How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain
Gratitude has been scientifically proven to improve your brain and your life. In this episode, I discuss the benefits of gratitude and how you can harness the superpower of thankfulness in your daily life.
What are you grateful for in this moment?
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 an appreciation of what is meaningful to you.
You can train yourself to constantly be thankful for the little things in life.
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. – Zig Ziglar
Your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that regulates critical bodily functions like your appetite. A National Institutes of Health study found that when you express kindness or feel gratitude, your hypothalamus floods your brain with dopamine. This gives you a natural high, motivating you to do good and express gratitude even more.
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.
Why Gratitude Is Good For You
Gratitude improves your physical health and energy levels.
- Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and are healthier.
- According to a study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves.
- 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%.
Gratitude improves your mental health.
- Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, including envy, frustration, resentment, and regret.
- Doctor Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has found that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.
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.
Gratitude improves your mental strength.
- Gratitude not only reduces stress but also plays a major role in overcoming trauma.
- A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD.
- Gratitude makes us more resilient to trauma and stressful events.
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.
- For a physical representation of all your blessings, create a gratitude jar. 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 or starting meetings with a gratitude practice.
- I start all of my mastermind meetings 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.
- Spend time in nature, away from your digital devices and stress-causing distractions.
- The more grateful you are, the more present you become.
- Reduce judgment.
- Your inner critic keeps you from feeling gratitude.
- There’s an old parable that tells of a farmer’s horse who ran away. The neighbor said, “What a shame,” and the farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day, the horse returned with wild horses. The neighbor said, “How wonderful,” and the farmer said, “Maybe.”
- The next day, the horse stepped on the father’s son’s arm, and it broke. The neighbor said, “How horrible,” and the farmer said, “Maybe.”
- The next day, the government came to the farmer’s village to draft people for the war and passed over the farmer’s son. The neighbor said, “How wonderful,” and the farmer said, “Maybe.”
- Remember that you determine what things mean because gratitude is a state of mind.
- There were once 2 twin boys who resembled each other only in looks and were otherwise opposite in every way. One was an optimist, and one was a pessimist.
- On the boys’ birthday, their father loaded the pessimist’s room with toys and games and the optimist’s room with horse manure just to see what would happen.
- That evening, the father found the pessimist crying bitterly. The pessimist said that his friends would be jealous, he’d have to read all of these instructions, and the toys would soon be broken.
- But the optimist was dancing for joy in his pile of manure. When the father asked why, the optimist replied, “With all this manure, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!”
- 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?
Make your gratitude post on social media today and tag me @jimkwik and #KwikBrain so we can re-post some of our favorites.
It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.
Thank you for listening!