The Science of Gratitude

What's the magic behind gratitude? Why does it make you feel so warm and fuzzy inside? Learn the science behind the magic!

Recently, the medical community has become interested in the science of gratitude and how it affects the brain, body, and one’s overall wellbeing. Modern studies focus on this idea that gratitude is a skill that can be practiced and trained, and the results have been remarkable! 

The science of gratitude

“Gratitude is the ability to appreciate what is meaningful to oneself.”

Let’s talk neuroplasticity. The discovery of neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt, radically changed what we could see as possible for the human mind. Dr. Michael Mezenich is a leading researcher on this topic and has made claims that brain training may be as effective as drugs in treating certain mental diseases.  He said, “Your brain – every brain – is a work in progress. It is ‘plastic.’ From the day we’re born to the day we die, it continuously revises and remodels, improving or slowly declining, as a function of how we use it.” 

As Dr. Mezenich and many other neuroscientists have found, what you think, do, and pay attention to can actually change the function and structure of your brain. That means if you’re thinking negative thoughts, speaking negative things, and being an all around negative nancy, than that will cause your brain to make neural connections that make it easier for you to be negative more often. On the other hand, each time you “practice” gratitude, you create the conditions in your brain to see and appreciate the good around you. This also increases your ability to be resilient through difficult times. 

Beyond the brain benefits

One study showed that while practicing gratitude, participants heart rate was also lower. Another study showed that gratitude journaling increases one’s neural altruism. Isn’t that fascinating that when we begin to show more gratitude, we have the natural inclination to help others?

“The more grateful you are, the more beauty you see”

When practice gratitude, it doesn’t mean that we ignore what’s challenging, or try to suppress feelings when they are uncomfortable. In fact, looking at the challenging aspects can actually invoke a sense of gratitude if you look at the with a non-judgemental way. Sometimes it takes a painful situation to remind us of all we have to be grateful for, but it doesn’t need to take a challenging experience for us to muster up these feelings!

Ways to practice gratitude

  1. Gratitude Meditation – Practice meditations where the main target is to notice all that you can be grateful for in this moment. 
  2. Gratitude Journal – Wake up and write down 3 things your grateful for, a beautiful way to start your day!
  3. Be Mindful! – When you pay attention you can more easily see what there is to be grateful for!
  4. Say Thank You – Write it in a letter or say it aloud to someone who deserves to hear it from you.

Want to see how the science of gratitude can positively affect your life? Share an affirmation with the TILL community.

Photo: Maksim Sislo

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    1 Comment

    1. Avery Elizabeth

      I’ve always said it- gratitude is the greatest treasure! Everything starts with gratitude!

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