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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

How does gratitude change your brain?

Pause. Think of something you are thankful for. Maybe even write it down. How did that make you feel? Did it bring a smile to your face? Did it make you want to think of something else you are grateful for, so you could feel that way again?

Study after study has shown that the professional development skill of practicing gratitude changes your brain. People who really do “count their blessings” tend to be happier and less depressed. Why? Well, it’s neuroscience. So, let’s unpack that a little.

Studies show that by expressing gratitude we increase activity in the hypothalamus which is good because it is the area of the brain that controls such activities as: eating, drinking, sleeping and has a huge influence on our metabolism and stress levels. Gratitude also activates brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine – the reward transmitter. This creates feelings of happiness that the brain will want to repeat.

So, how does this change us?

  1. It improves our mental health (which can come in handy for many during the holidays). Practicing gratitude replaces negative emotions with positive emotions by shifting our thoughts. It may also help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude in the future.

  2. Studies show those who keep a gratitude journal improve their optimism, reduce physical ailments and improves exercise patters.

  3. Higher levels of gratitude are associated with better sleep and lower anxiety and depression.

  4. People who practice gratitude recover quicker from tragedy and horrible situations.

Grateful people are training their brains to retain positive information and reject negative stuff.

We all spend an awful lot of time chasing down things we don’t have. Practicing professional development by showing gratitude helps us to refocus and appreciate the things we DO have.

For more professional development, sign up for the Monday Morning Coaching Memo.

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