The science of gratitude
We all know that being grateful is good for us, but did you know there is strong scientific evidence to suggest that a regular gratitude practice can have a profound and positive impact on our brain? Kristy von Minden explains how to incorporate this into
Our brain has an inbuilt negativity bias. This means we are more sensitive to unpleasant news and events. It also means we don’t pay as much attention to and tend to forget life’s more positive experiences.
This bias most likely evolved from an evolutionary need to keep us out of harm’s way. Survival depended on our ability to notice and react to danger. However, in these safe and abundant times, this doesn’t always serve us well.
By regularly pausing to express what we are grateful for, we can rewire our brains to scan for and notice the good.
Researchers suggest that it actually changes our mindset – the more you practise feeling and expressing gratitude, the more easily gratitude will come to you spontaneously in the future.
It feels good while we are practising it, too. Our brain is flooded with the chemical dopamine, which rewards us with a natural high and motivates us to continue to be thankful.
Research on gratitude shows that these neurological effects also open the doors to many other health benefits, including decreased pain levels, better sleep, more energy, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression.
The key with a gratitude practice is establishing it as a part of your daily routine so it becomes effortless. Find something you do every day as a trigger to remind you, for example:
> Write three things you’re grateful for on the shower wall while your conditioner sets
> Write in a journal first thing while you enjoy your morning cup of tea > Practise with your loved ones at the dinner table.
It can help to share with others, to really embed the experience in your brain. This Christmas could be a great time to sit with your family and each name three immaterial things you are grateful for.