Ever wondered why it’s such a great feeling when you’re thankful or practicing gratitude? It turns out, there’s science behind it! Gratitude isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s a powerful tool that can literally change the way your brain functions.
Here’s everything you need to know about gratitude and your brain!
How Gratitude Affects the Brain
Think about it: when you’re feeling thankful, isn’t your mood just that much brighter? Well, science backs this up! Gratitude does lead to happiness. But how exactly does it work and what else can it do to improve your health? Let’s find out.
The Benefits of Gratitude
When you actively practice gratitude, you’re doing much more than developing a positive habit. You’re physically changing the way your brain works. Neuroscience research has demonstrated that expressing gratitude can lead to significant increases in your levels of happiness.
The benefits of gratitude include:
- better sleep
- less stress
- improved relationships
- increased happiness
- better overall physical health
But how exactly does this process take place? Let’s take a closer look at the brain.
How Gratitude Changes Your Brain
A little science lesson here: The human brain loves routine. It’ll keep using those tried and true neural pathways you’ve developed over the years unless you push it to do otherwise. When you adopt the healthy habit of expressing gratitude regularly, you’re essentially rewiring your brain to think differently.
You’re strengthening and creating new neural pathways that emphasize positive experiences and thoughts. Let’s talk about the role of neurotransmitters. Dopamine and serotonin are known as “the happiness neurotransmitters”. When you express gratitude your brain releases specific neurotransmitters.
Gratitude: A Natural High
Let’s understand the chemicals involved when you practice gratitude:
|Impact on Mood
|Helps with motor control and motivation; creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivate a person to repeat a specific behavior
|Regulates mood, anxiety, and happiness
Studies have found that serotonin and dopamine aren’t just mood-boosters. They can also enhance learning. So, each time you feel grateful, you’re teaching your brain to become more sensitive to the experience of gratitude in the future. Now, let’s go deeper into the science.
Editor’s Note: The more often you practice gratitude, the more your brain and body will benefit – try hard to create moments in your day when you mindfully practice gratitude. The impact is powerful.
The Science Behind Gratitude
While you’ve likely experienced the warm feelings that accompany the act of expressing gratitude, you might not be aware of the chemical changes occurring inside your brain at that very moment. Gratitude has the power to shift your brain’s functionality.
So, how does that work? Researchers believe it’s all rooted in the neurotransmitters we looked at above: serotonin and dopamine. When you express gratitude, through a grateful thought or when you use a gratitude journal, these neurotransmitters are unleashed in the brain.
Increased Dopamine: The Reward Chemical
When you say “thank you” or acknowledge a kind deed, your brain’s reward center is stimulated, releasing dopamine. This means that expressing gratitude directly correlates with a spike in dopamine levels. The more you practice gratitude, the more dopamine your brain makes. It becomes a self-reinforcing loop – a positive habit your brain loves to maintain.
Increased Serotonin: The Mood Booster
Saying “thank you” doesn’t just make the other person feel good – it also elevates your mood. How, you might ask? By boosting your serotonin levels. This neurotransmitter has a soothing effect, calming your brain and lowering stress levels. It’s like a natural mood enhancer, and practicing gratitude is a foolproof way to boost its production.
Fewer Stress Hormones
Looking at your physical wellbeing, you might be fascinated to know that the practice of gratitude lowers stress levels, too. When your mindset shifts towards positive thinking brought about by gratitude, your brain produces fewer stress hormones. As a result, you’ll notice a calming effect, allowing you to manage stress more effectively.
Enhanced Immune System
Not stopping at that, gratitude can also impact your immune system. There’s a reason why the phrase “a healthy mind in a healthy body” rings true. As you’ve learned, gratitude stimulates those “feel good” chemicals in your brain, and this can lead to a stronger immune response, promoting a healthier you.
Gratitude: Your Path to Happiness and Increased Wellness
So, how does it work? Well, it’s all about rewiring your brain. When you express gratitude, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. They make you feel ‘good’.
You see, when you start realizing all the good in your life, not only do you start feeling happier, you also improve your health. Your body starts to manage stress better, you sleep better, and overall, you just feel, well, better.
Make the most of those powerful chemicals in your brain and make gratitude a daily habit – maybe start a journal, or meditate – or just start saying thank you more often. Every little act of gratitude is an investment in your happiness and health.