When you hear the word gratitude, does a vision of a Thanksgiving dinner come into your mind? Going around the table, listening to your family list off one thing they are grateful for…
“I’m grateful for my family.”
“I’m grateful that we’re all together.”
“I’m grateful for my health.”
While Thanksgiving dinner can be great gratitude practice, there are benefits to practicing gratitude all year long.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the recognition that something good has happened to you. It is the positive feeling of being grateful, and shows your appreciation for the people or circumstances around you.
What happens in our brains when we express gratitude?
While gratitude may just seem like a practice to help you be a better person, there has been proven to be chemical changes in your brain when you practice gratitude. When you practice gratitude:
1. Dopamine is released
Dopamine is a part of the reward system in our brain. It is released in response to what we do that makes us feel good, and part of the reason we decide to do that thing again. It is a “feel good” chemical. Gratitude has been shown to produce more dopamine than physical pleasure and giving to others.
2. Oxytocin is released
When gratitude is practiced, oxytocin – otherwise known as the love hormone – is released. Oxytocin is usually increased through physical touch, and is the hormone that is released when falling in love. It is the hormone that helps us to bond with others and feel closer to them.
3. Cortisol is inhibited
Cortisol is the human body’s primary stress hormone. It manages a person’s mood, motivation, and fear. When gratitude is practiced, cortisol decreases, helping to lower stress levels.
How do we practice gratitude?
There are plenty of different ways to practice gratitude. You might find that some are more useful than others. Here are a few examples of how we practice gratitude:
1. Writing/journaling daily releases serotonin
Keeping a gratitude journal that you are able to write in everyday is a great way to practice gratitude. Examples of things to write about could be a positive part of your day, listing out a few things you are grateful for, or affirmations for yourself.
2. Saying what you’re grateful for daily
This could be in a journal as mentioned above, or it could be something that you do daily with friends and family. Take time at the end of each day, for example at dinner, and say something that you are grateful for.
3. Takes 4 weeks of consistency
After four weeks of consistently practicing gratitude in some way, it will become a natural habit for you to do daily.
4. 10 weeks=25% more happy
After a full ten weeks of practicing gratitude, people often see about a 25% increase in their happiness and an increase in optimism.
Change your life today simply by practicing gratitude.
“I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” — Will Arnett