Gratitude is such a powerful tool that brings so many benefits to our lives. It can be used at times of stress to calm and ground ourselves. It can be used to lift our moods by focusing on the things we have, abundance rather than lack. It can have such a wonderful affect on our outlook and even switch our days completely around.
Let’s take a look at how it can help in more detail.
Our brains are constantly being shaped and then shaped again thanks to the change in our neural pathways – neuroplasticity. This is our brains ability to modify its connections or re-wire itself.
Practising gratitude causes wiring and firing of positive emotions to our neural pathways. The more we do, the more we feel and experience positive thoughts, contentment, joy and happiness.
Research has also discovered that when we speak about our thoughts of gratitude the prefrontal cortex of our brains is activated. An important part for positive emotions, moral cognition and decision-making. Something to support you right now.
We all have a happiness set-point.
Psychology Professor and author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky, says it is partly encoded in our genes and this set point rises if something good happens and falls if something bad happens, but always returns to base camp (the original point). Have you ever wondered why some people seem naturally happy than others? It’s the set-point.
Studies in 2014 discovered that the set point can be changed and this is done by what we focus on and the activities we do. For example, practicing gratitude. So we can move our point and be happier.
You know those fear based thoughts? Feelings of anxiousness and worry? These are caused by our negativity bias’.
Gratitude helps to shift our conscious attention to the good that is happening. This can help us to think more clearly, calmly and help regulate our sympathetic nervous system which creates the fight or flight response.
In life we face all kinds of challenges – hello 2020 and start of 2021! Practising gratitude helps to build your inner strength, your resilience.
Resilience is important for many reasons. It enables us to develop mechanisms for protection against overwhelming experiences and it helps us to maintain stability in our lives during difficult and stressful times.
Remember our brains? Those pathways?
They get stronger and stronger meaning you have a toolkit to turn to when life is feeling overwhelming. Helping you think calmly, clearly and turn negatives into positives. It can aid our self-compassion too.
There have been studies that have discovered that people who suffer with hypertension have noticed large decreases in blood pressure. There have also been studies showing an increase in physical exercise when practising gratitude.
Research has also shown a build of a stronger immune system and less body aches and pains.
If you’re struggling with sleep of late bringing gratitude into your life can help you settle into a more calmer and better sleep cycle and you’ll feel a lot better in the morning too.
Oxytocin is also known as the “love hormone”.
It’s associated with empathy, trust, sexual activity, and relationship-building. It helps us form bonds with each other.
It’s also released when we hug, which is why we feel so good when we have a hug* with someone. The hug triggers the release of this feel good hormone.
Dr. Susan Ferguson, a neuroscientist at the Centre for Integrative Brain Research in the USA, talks about the release of Oxytocin when we experience gratitude too and the positive impact it has on our mood.
*extra tip – hugs may be in short supply right now, but a self hug will also help release this hormone and give you a boost.
Life is always so busy right? Always on the go and especially now when we’re trying to do so much and also constantly thinking of the next thing and the next thing.
It’s time to STOP, SLOW DOWN and take more of a look of the NOW.
When we are practising gratitude and are in the moment there is no focusing on the past or tomorrow. It’s about what is happening around you, in this very moment. It brings you to the present and helps to sharpen your mindfulness. It will bring you to a place of instant calm, relaxation and ground you so that you then have the energy, motivation and mindset to go forward.
Sure Gratitude brings a lot of benefits to us when we practice it but it also brings a lot of joy, happiness and kindness to others as well. And 2020 has shown us how much others matter to us.
Expressing how grateful we are for someone to that someone – how do you think that would make them feel? How would it make you feel if someone expressed to you how much they value you?
It’s a kindness and feeling unlike no other -to say thank you and to show appreciation for others around us. It can really make someone’s day.
Now is the perfect time to create and share these good feelings with those around us.
“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.”ROBERT BRAULT