The Science Behind Gratitude
I was recently speaking with a client about coping strategies for her mental health and she said that she uses a gratitude journal because an old counsellor told her to. She found it quite helpful and continues to do it to this day. I asked her if she knew why this was recommended and why she thinks it worked for her and she said she didn't know. I think a lot of us are in this boat. We have heard about gratefulness and gratitude being beneficial to our mental health, but don't know why.
There is actually solid neuroscience behind it. When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude every day, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
This in turn helps:
1) Release toxic emotions
2) Reduces pain
3) Improves quality of sleep
4) Helps with regulating stress
5) Reduces anxiety and depression
Seems so simple, right? Just be grateful! It does take time and energy to really think about the good things we have going on for us especially when we may not be feeling the greatest. Our brains are wired to think of negative things much easier, so it takes practice to think of positive things and be grateful.
Give it a try! Try to start or end your day by writing down 3 things you are grateful for. Even if it was just a hot cup of coffee/tea you had this morning. Nothing is too small or too big.
If you are interested in learning more about the effects of gratitude on the brain, I have included a couple of links that talk in detail of research studies that back the benefits of practicing gratitude. Happy writing!
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain
The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief