What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the act of showing appreciation. It can be towards a person or thing. Basically, it is an act that shows that you are grateful for something.
Why do we need to show gratitude?
Research has shown that gratitude does in fact impact our brain. Hence, if you were not so keen on expressing gratitude, a valid reason to do so is that it affects our brain.
Below is a list of 10 effects gratitude has on the brain.
1. Increased dopamine levels
Gratitude has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward-motivated behavior, pleasure, and happiness. When we experience something that we find rewarding or pleasurable, dopamine is released in the brain, which reinforces the behavior and encourages us to seek out similar experiences in the future.
2. Gratitude activates the brain’s reward centre, which includes the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex
When we express gratitude, these regions of the brain are activated, and dopamine is released. This reinforces the behavior of feeling grateful and encourages us to continue to seek out things to be grateful for.
Research has also shown that practising gratitude regularly can increase the density of dopamine receptors in the brain, which makes the brain more sensitive to the effects of dopamine. This means that the brain becomes more efficient at processing rewards and pleasure, which can lead to an overall increase in happiness and well-being.
3. Reduced stress
Gratitude can reduce stress levels by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body and mind.
Gratitude has been shown to reduce stress levels in several ways. When we experience stress, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that prepares us for the fight-or-flight response. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated for long periods, it can have negative effects on our physical and mental health.
Practising gratitude has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in the body. When we focus on the positive aspects of our lives, it can help to shift our perspective and reduce the negative effects of stress. Gratitude can also help to improve our emotional regulation, which can make us more resilient to stress.
Additionally, expressing gratitude can help to improve social support, which has also been shown to reduce stress levels. When we feel supported by others, it can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
4. Improved sleep
Gratitude can improve the quality of sleep by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. It has been shown to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and promoting positive emotions. When we experience stress, it can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. However, when we focus on the positive aspects of our lives, it can help to shift our perspective and reduce the negative effects of stress. Additionally, practicing gratitude can promote positive emotions, which can help to improve sleep quality. When we feel grateful, it can help to induce feelings of relaxation and calmness, which can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
5. Enhanced memory
Gratitude can enhance memory by increasing activity in the hypothalamus, which is responsible for regulating stress and memory. Expressing appreciation has been shown to enhance our memory by improving our cognitive processes. It also activates the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions such as attention, working memory, and decision-making. This increased activation can improve our cognitive processes, which can lead to better memory retention and recall. Additionally, practicing this can improve our mood, which can also enhance our memory. When we are in a positive mood, we are more likely to pay attention to and remember positive information.
6. Increased empathy:
Gratitude can increase empathy by activating the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with social cognition and empathy. It has been shown to increase empathy by promoting prosocial behavior. When we experience this, it can increase our feelings of connectedness to others and motivate us to help others. This increased sense of connectedness can also make us more attuned to the needs of others, which can increase our empathy. Additionally, practicing gratitude can promote positive emotions, which can help to increase our empathy. When we are in a positive mood, we are more likely to perceive others in a positive light and respond to their needs with compassion.
7. Improved mental health
Gratitude can improve mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has been shown to improve our mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. When we experience this, it promotes positive emotions and reduces negative emotions, which can help to improve our overall mood. Additionally, practicing this can improve our self-esteem and increase our sense of purpose, which can help to reduce feelings of hopelessness and improve our mental health. It can also increase our social support, which is a protective factor against mental health issues.
8. Improved relationships
Gratitude can improve relationships by promoting prosocial behavior and reducing aggression. It can improve our relationships by fostering feelings of appreciation and connection. When we express this feeling to our partners, it can increase their feelings of satisfaction and commitment, which can lead to greater relationship satisfaction. Additionally, it can help to reduce negative interactions and increase positive interactions, which can improve the overall quality of our relationships.
9. Increased self-esteem
It can increase self-esteem by reducing social comparisons and increasing feelings of self-worth.
10. Increased optimism
Gratitude can increase optimism by promoting positive thinking and reducing negative thoughts. It can improve optimization by increasing our motivation and productivity. When we experience this feeling, it can increase our sense of purpose and make us more likely to engage in behaviors that align with our goals. Additionally, practicing this can improve our self-esteem and confidence, which can help us to overcome obstacles and take on new challenges.
Additionally, what you appreciate, appreciates. Why don’t you start expressing appreciation today?