Expressing gratitude (the quality of being thankful and readiness to show appreciation) literally changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps the grey matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. Research measuring brain activity found that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, just like Prozac, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine.
The National Institute of Health found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels. From this evidence on brain activity it starts to become clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects, from increased exercise and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains.
Some ways to practice gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Tell an employee or a friend something you appreciate about them.
- Look at yourself in the mirror and think of something you like about yourself.
- Sit in a quiet place and think about when something went well. How did that feel? Practice that feeling every day for a week.
- Next time something bad happens consider 5 good things that happened as a result of this event.
- Write someone a thank you note.
- Write it down, talk about it, think about it, re-live it, meditate.