Scientists know that if we change the brain with drugs – legal or recreational – we can change how the mind feels, thinks and responds. Gratitude has the same effect on the brain as do the drugs. No one really knows exactly why the practice of gratitude works to stimulate happiness, but it does. So, be grateful.
A brain imaging study done recently at Indiana University sheds some light on how gratitude rewires the brain.
The next step in our six-step plan to move you toward a happier life – without drugs – is to be grateful. As a reminder, our steps include:
All major religions stress gratitude
Gratitude is a quality of the soul, for Hindus, and not dependent upon possessions. Buddhists believe that being grateful is an antidote for greed, jealousy, resentment, and grief. Gratitude is vitally important in Judaism in both worship and daily life. In Christianity, God ‘s generosity provides the model for how Christians are to conduct themselves. True gratitude, in Islam, brings more abundant grace to the worshipper.
Be grateful could be the motto for all of them.
Even scientists now see that religion has a point. According to Jeremy Adam Smith of Berkeley University,
Certainly, we would agree that the world’s religious traditions have much to teach us about the practice of gratitude. But tradition and religion provide only very limited guidelines as to how we might encourage gratitude in contemporary secular settings like universities or hospitals.
Berkeley has studied more than 1,000 people of all ages. Their research reveals that those who practice gratitude reap benefits physically, psychologically, and socially. In fact, Berkeley has been able to quantify how much happier people are if they keep a gratitude journal,
As my colleague Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas says in the CBS piece, studies consistently show that people who keep a gratitude journal are 25 percent happier than those who don’t. “The people who did the gratitude [journal] showed increases in happiness, reductions in stress, reductions in vulnerability to physical symptoms, such as headaches,” she says.
What Is Gratitude?
Gratitude is really nothing more than recognizing and appreciating the positive things around you. Just by changing your focus to notice your blessings – the things you have rather than the things you don’t have – can profoundly affect your mood, as well as your physical health. Also, science has shown that the daily practice of being grateful increases your optimism, concentration, as well as your sleep quality.
The good news is that you can learn how to be grateful.
Our society rushes willy-nilly from one thing to the next, and so often we don’t take the time to experience the good in our lives. So, first of all, you need to be more mindful. Look around you, slow down and notice the beautiful things in your life. Could be a sunrise, a flower or the smile of a loved one. Things for which to be grateful are abundant if you learn how to find them. Check out our gratitude list to get jump-started.
Benefits Of Gratitude
Once you start looking for the positives, the negatives begin to recede. Instead of thinking about the things you don’t have, your focus will shift to the abundance of good things in your life.
You can trigger the benefits of gratitude by simply smiling or saying thank you. Other physical actions, like saying a kind word or complimenting a friend or co-worker, making a phone call to connect with a family member are excellent ways to show your gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal to express your thankfulness helps you reap the physical and emotional benefits of the practice. Physically handwriting the things for which you are grateful increases your feeling of well-being. Each morning, I write down three things for which I am grateful to get my day off to a good start. You must commit to practicing gratitude daily to truly benefit.
So, make a vow that you will be grateful every day. Your happiness quotient will begin to rise, and you will be an inspiration to others.
Get The Full Happiness Plan & More…
My new book, Get Glad: Your Practical Guide To A Happier Life, puts this whole plan together and walks you through the steps to help get you to a happier place. Pick up your copy: