The Brain Benefits of an Attitude of Gratitude!
Tis the season to be thankful! As a country we practice gratitude on one particular holiday, but what would happen if we practiced gratitude all the time? Scientists have been studying the effect of gratitude on not just overall happiness, but on our physical brains. They’ve learned through studies using brain scans that gratitude changes our brains!
During these studies, people who struggled with anxiety or depression were told that a benefactor was giving them a sum of money and asked if they wanted to donate some of it as an expression of gratitude for this gift they received. Those who gave away their money had a certain pattern emerge in their brains. Then, when they were followed up with later, those who gave the money away reported more feelings of gratitude in the weeks and months that followed this activity than those who did not give the money away. Later, when they had follow up scans of their brains it showed more gratitude related activity than the group that did not give away their gift of money.
An important take away from these studies is that the practice of gratitude does make us happier and more grateful. Jessica Stillman, a writer for Inc. Magazine, points out in her summary of this study, “The result is interesting for neuroscientists but it's also potentially useful for the rest of us. It suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset -- you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude 'muscle' that can be exercised and strengthened... the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future." As Dr. Ken Gibson, founder of LearningRx points out, “The structure of the brain is not permanently fixed at birth…we can change our brain and our brain’s capacity to handle information.”
The brain is an incredible muscle, with more power and potential than we even know!