Your Brain on Gratitude
Neuroscientist Glen Fox has spent his entire adult life studying gratitude. He is convinced that “grateful people tend to recover faster from trauma and injury, tend to have better and closer personal relationships and may even have improved health overall.”
The study of gratitude is a relatively recent phenomenon, and emerged from the field of positive psychology. Yet the practice of gratitude has consistently been shown to lower stress, reduce pain, boost immunity, and improve blood pressure and heart function.
To find out, Fox did an experiment using brain-imaging scans to map which circuits in the brain become active when we feel grateful. “We saw that the participants’ ratings of gratitude correlated with activity in a set of brain regions associated with interpersonal bonding and with relief from stress,” he said.
To up your conscious gratitude, Fox suggests keeping a gratitude journal. On a regular basis, write down what you are grateful for, even if those things seem mundane. The positive effect is cumulative so it’s a good idea to make this a habit. He also suggests writing letters of gratitude to those who have helped you along your way.
Says Fox, “I think that gratitude can be much more like a muscle, like a trained response or a skill that we can develop over time as we’ve learned to recognize abundance and gifts and things that we didn’t previously notice as being important,” he said. “And that itself is its own skill that can be practiced and manifested over time.”
When was the last time you actively expressed gratitude, and how did it make you feel? And what experience have you had when people shared gratitude with you? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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