French philosopher Jacques Maritain said, “Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” More recent research shows that being grateful is more than polite; it may change your brain!
Researchers in California conducted a study1 using an MRI to learn what happens in your brain when you are feeling grateful. Increased activity in areas related to social learning, empathy, values, and reward indicated that feeling grateful sparks a chemical change in your brain that promotes self-esteem, compassion for others, and relief from stressors.
It also engaged the hypothalamus, releasing the hormone dopamine. And when subjects kept a weekly gratitude journal, the benefits increased. Gratitude, it seems, diminishes stress, depression, and even bodily aches and pains while promoting neuro active exercise, improved sleep, and a dopamine rush of ‘feeling good.’ Wow!
A 2017 Berkley study2 found that those changes, although not immediate, accumulated over time and lasted for months. Authors Brown and Wong suggested that “… practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude … and could contribute to improved mental health over time.”
Gratitude is not difficult; the more you practice, the more you will find reasons to be grateful. To harness its full power:
- Keep a daily or weekly gratitude journal.
- Tell people why you appreciate them.
If feeling grateful makes you feel better, why wait? Start your journal!
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorns have roses.” ― Alphonse Karr