Mental Health: Gratitude Mindfulness Can Help Rewire Your Brain

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Neuroscientists have discovered that you're going to be happier and healthier if you really mean it when you say "Thank You". Expressing gratitude daily is not just a New Age fad. In 2015, psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons from the Davis University of California and Dr. Michael McCullough from the University of Miami published a study that analyzed the physical results of practicing gratitude.

A third of the participants in the sample were asked to keep a daily newspaper of stuff that happened during the week they were grateful for. About third was asked to write down irritations or incidents that displeased them on a daily basis. The group's last third was asked to write down everyday situations and incidents with no emphasis on either positive or negative emotional attachment.

Growing participant was asked at the end of the 10-week study to document how they felt about life physically and generally. The community of gratitude expressed feelings of their lives more hopeful and positive than the other classes. However, the community of gratitude was more physically active and recorded less doctor visits than those who just wrote about their negative experiences.

The reasons why gratitude has such an effect on the brain's health and well-being continue. Brain activity was assessed using magnetic resonance imaging as participants were stimulated to feel gratitude by receiving gifts in a neurological experiment conducted by researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles.

The brain areas showing increased activity were the anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal medial cortex- those correlated with moral and social reasoning, reward, empathy, and value judgment. It led to the conclusion that the appreciation emotion encourages a positive and supportive disposition towards others and a feeling of relief.

With downstream effects on metabolism, stress, and multiple habits, gratitude also stimulates the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is located at the base of the brain and controls hormones responsible for many critical functions such as temperature of the body, emotional responses, and functions of survival such as appetite and sleep. Dopamine, a pleasure hormone, is one of the neurochemicals associated with the brain parts affected by appreciation.

In reality, this lasting impact is being preserved psychologically. Feelings of appreciation in adolescents have shown an inverse correlation with victimization of bullying and risk of suicide. On a chemical level, gratitude influences brain function and its practice encourages self-worth and concern for others.

It may seem hard to be grateful in times of hardship or stress. But if you think about it, we must all be grateful for something. Let it be simply a sincere "thank you" if you indulge in just one prayer. Here are three easy ways to put you in gratitude's mindfulness.

Make it a point to tell people in your life on a daily basis what you like about them. Give yourself a moment to think about an attribute you like about yourself or something you have achieved lately when you look in the mirror.

You can wire your brain to be hopeful and compassionate through the power of gratitude, making you feel good. The more you try, the happier you will be. Such positivity, producing a virtuous cycle, will spread to those around you.

RELATED: A Lesson in Gratitude: Things Kids Can Make That Will Teach Them How to be Grateful 

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