The Neuroscience of Gratitude

What Good is Gratitude?

Improves brain chemistry

The neurochemical brain activity associated with the feeling of gratitude for something good in our life causes the brainstem to release dopamine (often seen as the main chemical of pleasure which more and more is said to confer motivation salience, i.e. the perceived desirability or aversiveness of an outcome), serotonin (contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness) and the pituitary to produce oxytocin (inhibits cortisol, giving us a feeling of trust, safety, camaraderie).

This optimal brain chemistry leads to an increase in psychological capital like optimism, motivation, resilience, & emotional intelligence, and blocks toxic emotions like fear, anger, resentment, envy, regret & depression. A Wharton Health study revealed that gratitude increases neuron density.

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During the average day, people experience positive emotions more frequently than negative emotions, but the effects of positive emotions are short-lived compared to negative ones. We burn through a positive emotion on an average of 90 seconds, while negative emotions are contagious and stay with us longer. The cortisol produced by negative emotions remains in the blood stream for 24-26 hours.

If you fail to regularly cultivate a gratitude mindset the brain and body will soon begin to accumulate the physical, emotional and mental effects from toxic emotions.

Strengthens social connections

Studies by the John Templeton Foundation have shown that expressing gratitude results in stronger community bonds and more satisfying relationships.

We are social beings, so anything that promotes social interaction is good for us physically, emotionally and mentally. If you care anything about a little thing called happiness, one of the longest studies of adult life by Harvard showed that good and long-lasting human relationships are the biggest factor of happiness.

Elevates stress resilience

Gratitude was found to be a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Stress will never be absent from our lives, and that is probably for the best anyway. Knowing how to thoughtfully prepare for and manage stress is one of the best life skills to hone. The only sure thing in life is change, constant movement and fluctuation, so make this movement a graceful dance. Resisting change is equivalent to resist the forces of nature. just causes friction, is inefficient, and can eventually lead to trauma. Imagine a dancer resisting the natural forces at play, awkwardly trying to force the body

Improves physical health

Studies by the John Templeton Foundation show it can add up to 7 years to your life, and 10% fewer stress related illnesses. Another study on post-coronary event patients reported regular gratitude journaling may lower levels of inflammatory bio-markers. Furthermore, grateful people reported experiencing fewer aches and pains, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.

Not surprisingly, grateful people are likely to take care of their health, which is one way to express a general sense of gratitude for the gift of life, the body, the heart etc. On the other hand, neglect is the failure to acknowledge value for these same things. People and animals take care of the things they believe have value, be it monetary or sentimental.

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Cultivate Gratitude as Intentional Discipline

  1. Practice the DeROSE Method concepts & techniques.

    The concept of gratitude has been ingrained in our culture since the method’s inception in 1960. The expression of gratitude has been one of the eight facets of our method’s complete technical practice from the very beginning and we consider gratitude to not only be one fo the most important parts of the practice but it’s the glue that holds everything together.

  2. Celebrate the present moment.

    Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.

  3. Commit to betterment

    a. Volunteer. Give the gift of effective action for the betterment of local community. There are limitless possibilities, from donating your time and energy to a non-profit organization or simply leave the places you visit better off than how you found them (i.e. pick up litter).

    b. Does it get any easier that offering a sincere smile or “thank you”? Do things that awaken the sentiment of gratitude in others.

  4. Journal what you are grateful for.

    Schedule 5 minutes a day (or week) to reflect on the good things in your life and put it down on paper. Whether it’s been a rough day or a great day, it’s always a boost for the brain to reflect on the good things.

  5. Write a gratitude letter.

    Write a hand written letter to a person who has positively impacted your life. A partner, a sibling, a parent, a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a colleague, heck, all of the above! It’s a wonderful feeling to know you have somehow left a good impression on another person. It’s like a big hug for the soul that travels through time and space.

  6. Appreciate the lessons of a challenge or loss.

    Challenging moments in life offer some of the best gratitude and learning opportunities. If we lose a game or a job, there is no value in to guilt weaknesses are exposed our brain is hardwired to remember it so it never happens again. Turning your weaknesses into strengths is an effective way to have more success. If you lose a loved one, take solace in the fact they were a part of your life. Pay it forward, honor their memory by having the same positive influence on someone else.