Sure it's common knowledge that gratitude is a good practice, but did you know why? No, it's not just because we will all get along if we are grateful for other people, but daily gratitude practice actually changes your brain chemistry and how you view the world. This leads to all kinds of benefits both physically and mentally. Here are some interesting things about gratitude that can help you rewire your brain for happiness!
1) Cultivating Gratitude Takes Time.
This isn't an overnight fix. Yes, you can start feeling better immediately after writing in your gratitude journal or expressing your gratitude toward someone. But the rewiring of your brain for positive emotions takes time. It's like a muscle that need to build strength. The more you practice, the stronger the ability to perceive happiness and the easier it is to feel gratitude.
2) Gratitude has Long Lasting Effects.
Even though it takes time for a gratitude practice to change the brain, once it does, the effects are long lasting and pervade through the rest of your life. Studies showed that even after 3 months from stopping a gratitude practice, subjects still showed increased neural activity in the medial prefrontal cortex. The ability to handle stressful situations and overcome mental road blocks becomes easier over time as you rewire the brain to focus on positive things and situations.
3) Gratitude Doesn't Have To Be Shared.
Sharing your gratitude with others or the intended recipient doesn't have to happen to still benefit from the rewards of a gratitude practice. Most people think that they have to tell the people they are grateful for or have a public declaration for it to be genuine. And that is not the case! In fact you can still rewire your brain by taking 1 minute a day to contemplate what you are genuinely grateful for. Just that silent and focused 1 minute will have a huge effect on the brain!
4) Gratitude Can Improve Physical Health.
That's right! Practicing gratitude can actually have an effect on your physical health. The process not only helps lower stress, it also helps keep stress low by reducing cortisol levels in the body, ie. the stress hormone, so that you have a larger buffer before stress starts to effect the body negatively. Also studies report that people who practice gratitude regularly tend to have less aches and pains as compared to those who don't maintain a gratitude practice.
5) Gratitude Can Improve Self-Esteem.
Appreciating what you have and what brings you joy in your life actually improves self-esteem! When you are genuinely grateful for what you have in your life it helps train the brain to reduce comparing yourself with others. You being to be able to appreciate others success without diminishing what you have accomplished. Less comparing means higher self-esteem! How great is that?
6) Gratitude Can Help Shift Your Emotional State.
Your health can improve. Your self-esteem can improve. And so can your mental and emotional state! Gratitude helps train the brain to focus and see positive patterns in life. The more you practice gratitude the more your enforce the positive patterns of thinking. Thus leading to a general sense of well being and happiness. There is an old saying that goes along the lines, if you've forgotten the language of gratitude, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness. And it is true, if you are only able to focus on negative things and fall into negative thinking patterns then how can you be happy? Shifting your brain to traverse these positive thinking patterns allows for happiness and a general sense of well being, which then allows for the ability to better handle stress and those general rough days.
So give yourself the time and space, even if it just 1 minute a day, to appreciate and be grateful for the positives in your life. Some days it may only be one or two things, others it may be a whole slew of wonderful things in your life. But you won't know until you start to bring your awareness to it.
Take a deep breath, and be grateful for the wonderful You that is reading this!