How Gratitude Changes Your Brain Over Time

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Friday November 13, 2020

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Do you catch yourself taking things for granted rather than expressing gratitude? At times, being grateful can be a challenge. But that’s why it’s important to practice every day. It takes approximately 10 weeks of daily repetition to form a habit. Adding appreciation and thankfulness to your daily routine can be life-changing — so what do you have to lose?

Maybe you’re wondering how gratitude could have a long-lasting effect on your body. After all, it’s a fleeting emotional state, right? Keep reading to discover how gratitude changes your brain over time and improves your health.

How Gratitude Benefits Your Life

Showing appreciation and embracing a gratitude mindset influences all aspects of your life. You’ll experience changes in your mental and physical health, your relationships and your attitude.

1. Improves Your Immune System

Your immune system gets strengthened when you practice gratitude because you experience less stress and pain. When you’re stressed, you become more susceptible to infections because your immune system is compromised.

When you demonstrate gratitude, your body relaxes and your emotions calm, which allows your body to focus on fighting antigens.

2. Reduces Stress and Depression

Depression is experienced by 7.1% of all adults in the U.S., making it a significant mental disorder. Practicing gratitude can impact the way your brain functions. As you practice thankfulness, you are training your brain to see the world through a positive lens. You’ll have less time to focus on stressful thoughts because you’ll be determined to find the silver lining in every scenario.

3. Increases Productivity

These feelings provide a positive outlook on life. As a result, you spend less time trying to control your environment and more time working hard and staying focused on what you can change. You’ll be happy to participate fully because you’ll no longer feel like the world is against you. Additionally, you’ll spend less time comparing yourself with others because you’ll be content to focus on the things that matter to you.

4. Strengthens Relationships

Feelings of gratitude are linked to social relationships and gift-giving. Accepting and appreciating friendship increases bonding and activates regions of the brain involved with pleasure. The brain circuits associated with emotion perception are activated by gift-giving, and presents are a way to show gratitude to someone else. In this way, gratitude is strongly connected with relationship dynamics.

5. Encourages Mindfulness

When you practice gratitude, you become more mindful. Your mindfulness causes you to make thoughtful decisions regarding your health and relationships. You’ll pay closer attention to those around you, and you’ll experience a deeper appreciation for life. In turn, you feel happier, which has positive effects on your health.

How Gratitude Changes Your Brain Physically

When feeling gratitude, the portion of your brain associated with social interactions lights up. It influences your ability to empathize with and relate to others. This part of the brain is also connected to your body’s regulation of emotions and stress.

It also affects the brain regions linked to reward and moral cognitive processes, like removing a stressor. Studies show that gratitude uses the same portions of the brain that activate in cases involving morality. This research shows a conclusive link between decision-making and gratitude, along with morality and interpersonal relationships.

Your brain also uses gratitude as an incentive for decision processes because feelings of gratefulness are tied to social cognition and value evaluation.

How to Make Gratitude a Part of Your Day

Now that you know the amazing benefits of gratitude, you’ll surely want to incorporate it into your routine. Here are four simple ways to be grateful every day.

1. Keep a Journal

Journalling is possibly the most popular technique for practicing gratitude. When you write down your thoughts, you are forced to meditate on how you feel. When you keep a gratitude journal, you reflect on the things that make you feel grateful. You could also write about moments people express appreciation for your actions. Journaling will create a sense of mindfulness, and it only takes a few minutes to complete.

Unsure where to begin? Try using a specialized journal to guide your thoughts.

2. Practice Genuine Emotions

It’s natural to feel a wide array of emotions. Instead of focusing wholly on positive feelings, embrace the good and the bad. Your natural feelings are an indication of your appreciation for life. Expecting constant positivity is unrealistic and toxic for your mental health. Instead, love yourself and everything you feel, and be grateful you have the opportunity to work through your emotions.

3. Embrace Mantras

A mantra can be any word, phrase or sound that you repeat. You could say, “Today, I will be grateful,” or maybe repeat a list of things you appreciate in life. Mantras can focus your thoughts and improve your concentration. They help to reinforce your goals and calm your mind. Focus on your intentions and choose a word or phrase that reflects your appreciation or encourages you to have a grateful mindset.

4. Utilize Technology

Call or text people you care about and express your gratitude. Reaching out will brighten their day and fill you with calm. Using technology to convey gratitude can be simple and inclusive. Consider starting a group chat with your family, where you each list three daily gratitudes. This will keep you and your loved ones accountable when trying to form positive habits.

A Grateful Heart Creates a Healthy Mind

Demonstrating appreciation and gratitude creates closer interpersonal relationships and improves your general health. Studies show that the brain regions that activate through gracious thinking are linked to social connections, decision-making, morality and the reward system. You’ll feel healthier and happier if you concentrate on feelings of gratitude — so try utilizing these four methods to incorporate it into your lifestyle today!

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