Gratitude is More Than a Mantra

Gratitude

Unless you are fortunate enough to live on your own desert isle, this world serves us fresh daily doses of anxiety from the first opened email of the day until the last device in the household is powered down. Sadly, our children receive their own daily dose. Even if we limit screen time, there is always one alarmist in every group announcing that the sky is falling and who have conspired to bring it down upon us. We know increased anxiety is the price we pay for living in the information age; but short of buying that desert isle, what is the antidote? It could be as simple as a sticky note, a pencil, and a minute or two each morning.

That’s all you need to practice daily gratitude. By simply jotting down two or three things you are grateful for each day and sharing your note of gratitude with someone, you set off a complex biochemical reaction which rewires your brain to reduce anxiety and increase happiness. Researchers at both UC Berkeley and Indiana University have published findings in the past two years indicating healthy, well-adjusted individuals as well as those struggling with depression and anxiety benefit emotionally and physiologically from the daily and sustained practice of writing gratitude notes.

Using brain imaging techniques (MRI), researchers can see where the brain lights up when an individual feels gratitude. They found the “gratitude” region of the brain is associated with empathy, pleasure, and understanding one another. It is also the region of the brain controlling physiological systems that provide the body with stress relief, pain relief, and regular heart rhythms. We’re literally hard-wired to be happier and healthier with the sustained practice of gratitude.

Gratitude has been heralded by philosophers and religious leaders throughout recorded history. We find gratitude mantras for everything from Facebook posts to coffee mugs. Now scientists can tell us why gratitude improves our health and how we can keep the skies above sunny and bright. Pass out the sticky notes and pencils in your family and interrupt anxiety with gratitude.

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