A Simple Gratitude Practice for a Happier you

A recent study found that keeping a daily gratitude journal and reminiscing or meditating about it will not only make you feel better, but it can also physically change your brain to be more positive! I am the founder and Clinical Hypnotherapist at Ecomindz Clinical Hypnotherapy in Sydney, Australia, where we specialise in anxiety, quit smoking and overcoming phobias and trauma so in essence I help people become happier!

I have found an interest in a genuine gratitude practice so in this article, I’ll share with you some of the neuroscience behind gratitude and what it does for your brain. Then I’ll go over some steps you can take today to set up your own gratitude practice to help improve your mood and decrease stress, anxiety and depression.

Lady laughing happy and sitting in meditation pose

What Happens in Our Brain When We Practice Gratitude?

The areas of the brain activated when we experience gratitude are part of the same neural networks that are activated when we experience pleasure. These areas are also connected to the regions of the brain that regulate emotions, heart rate, and arousal levels and are thus associated with relieving stress and reducing pain. It increases dopamine, the feel-good chemical, and decreases the stress hormone cortisol leaving you with positive emotions. Science has proven that it can help prevent depression, illness, and suicidal thoughts. For those who are going through a difficult time, it is an incredible tool in overcoming these obstacles by focusing on gratitude for what you do have in your life, what you have been given or helped with, and what you have done for others, as opposed to what you don’t have. So next time someone asks how your day is going take a moment before answering to think about all things great about your life because there will always be something!

However contrary to popular belief, it is not just about being grateful for what you have that will make these lasting mental health changes, but reminiscing or experiencing genuine gratitude in the form of a narrative. So, for example, you have done something really special or helpful for someone and they express genuine gratitude to you or you watch a movie program or read an article about someone else who has either received or given gratitude.  Later in this article, I will explain how to practice this so you get lasting effects.

What are the known benefits of a Gratitude Practice?

 

Gratitude is proven to increase Dopamine and reduce cortisol. Studies found greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when one experienced gratitude. More interesting is that the effects were found 3 months after the study was concluded. This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain’s frontal cortex.  Some of the benefits include:

  • Enhanced mood
  • Stronger interpersonal relationships
  • Stronger immune system
  • More aware and awake
  • Positive emotions and thoughts
  • Increased motivation
  • Strengthening of the mind-body connection

How to practice gratitude for lasting results

Contrary to popular belief it is not just about being thankful for the things you have or writing them down. It is about a narrative about gratitude you have received or someone else gave or received.

1.   Write down 3 or 4 reminder points about his particular event

2.   Write down what the person’s state was before and also after the event

3.   Write down any other important factors that made this event special including feelings etc.

4.   Then 3 or 4 times per week take 1-5minutes a day and read your reminder points and summary and then meditate or sit, close your eyes, and sense, feel and experience that event as if it was happening now.

5.   ENJOY THE MANY BENEFITS AND WRITE THEM DOWN!

     Now that you know a very simple way to lower stress and anxiety levels, improve your overall mental health and sleep quality with lasting brain alterations, go ahead and share this little secret with others!

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