No matter where you are and what your situation is, you have the ability to shift your focus to something positive. This is one of the greatest gifts of being human. No matter what is happening on the outside, you can control what is on the inside, remaining calm and still in the moment. Emotional and mental balance in moments of high anxiety and stress don’t come naturally to us all, so deliberate practice of focusing our attention on the positive is essential. This is where gratitude makes its grand entrance.
Gratitude is the experience of counting one’s blessings.
In fact, a 2003 study by Emmons and McCollough, found that a focus on gratitude had a positive long-term effect on your overall well-being. Keeping a daily gratitude journal not only increases your sense of well-being, but was also shown to improve your sleep, increase your willingness to accept change, and help to lower your symptoms of physical pain.
Gratitude is that overwhelmingly positive feeling you get from a “Thank You.”
A 2009 study by Zahn, found that subjects that showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls a wide array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking, and sleeping. The hypothalamus also largely influences your metabolism and stress levels. Even more important, expressing gratitude activates brain regions associated with the “reward” neurotransmitter, Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is known for initiating action, so increases in Dopamine make you more likely to do what you just did. “Oh that feels good, let’s do it again!”
Gratitude has such a powerful effect on your life because it engages your brain in a virtuous cycle. Once you start to see things you are grateful for, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for. That is how the virtuous cycle begins.
Take 5 minutes for Gratitude:
- What are three things that you are grateful for today?