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Gratitude is an attitude!

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

Thanksgiving Day has just passed and as some of us just gathered with family or friends around a holiday feast and shared or thought about the people and things we are grateful for, we are left with a warm fuzzy feeling (unless the holiday was tarnished by family conflict, disagreements or loneliness! Hey, it happens!). Should we wait until next year to acknowledge those people or things that we are thankful for? Well, according to the latest research in neuroscience, taking time to be thankful…expressing what we are thankful for, thinking about it, writing about it, can dramatically improve your overall wellbeing.

Who wants to feel happy(er)?

Gratitude is one of the most important and powerful contributors to happiness and positive relationships. The great news is that it is an attitude that you can learn and adopt. In other words, you don’t have to be born with the ability to be grateful; you cultivate it. Sort of like a muscle you train to be stronger.

You don’t have to wait for circumstances to bring this feeling to you—there are things you can do in your life to proactively create feelings of gratitude for yourself with the experiences, the people and things you already have in your life, and create new experiences, new relationships that will bring more feelings of gratitude to your life.

Thank you Brain ! When I am grateful, you rewire yourself

When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two essential neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.

Whether expressing gratitude for what’s good in life or showing gratitude to someone, neural circuitry in our brain (stem) releases dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good and ultimately create positive emotions and optimism. When we reflect on or write down the positives in life, the anterior cingulate cortex in our brain releases serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.

The more we activate these “gratitude” circuits, the stronger these neural pathways become and the more likely we are to looking at the glass half full.

As I mentioned earlier, gratitude is something to develop. It grows. Therefore, it’s not a one-shot deal. It is a process. It requires steady practice, sometimes (and very often) repetition.

Practice, practice, practice!

Try those 5 simple exercises and incorporate them into your routine. You choose the frequency but I’d recommend a consistent commitment (daily or a minimum of once weekly)

1. Wake up with gratitude: As you wake up, create a mental list of 1-5 things/people you are grateful for or start by simply saying “Thank you for this day.”

2. Use gratitude affirmations: They can help subconscious reprogramming and change your thinking from negative to positive. Examples of affirmations can include – but can be more specific:

I am thankful for learning and growing

I am grateful for my family

I am grateful for the valuable lesson learnt despite the challenges encountered.

3. Journaling: The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on the past day, few days, or week, and remember 3-5 things you are especially grateful for. It’s up to you to choose the frequency. Some like to do it daily while other do it once a week.

4. Gratitude letter/email: Write a letter to a person you are particularly grateful to have in your life. Express why you are grateful for them and how they personally have affected your life for the better.

5. Gratitude Meditation/Visualization: Unlike regular meditation where you intentionally focus on your breath, during a gratitude meditation you visualize all the things and people in your life that you are grateful for.

Thank you for reading this blog! I am grateful for the ability to share this knowledge with you guys. As a last thought, I’d say, gratitude is not a cure for pain. Gratitude is a steady practice that will give you the ability to look at things in perspective when times get hard(er). There will always be good and bad times, happy and sad feelings. Gratitude can help us regulate negative emotions and cope with difficult situations. Start developing a grateful mindset today!

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