THE IMPORTANCE OF GRATITUDE
October 02, 2017
Alex Korb, a neuroscientist, has a book, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time. In his book, he provides a scientific explanation of why the practice of being grateful is so important.
Cultivating gratitude has a beneficial chemical affect on the brain, boosting dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) and serotonin a (neurotransmitter that affects our mood) levels.
“The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.”
“One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.” – Dr. Korb
Of course, when you are being “harassed by negative thoughts,” it often isn’t easy to find and focus on things you are grateful for. But Korb says that the effort alone provides the benefits.
“It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”
Can you look for things you are grateful for in your life? You may find you are feeling better throughout the day and sleeping better at night.
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