Practicing Gratitude Daily Can Change Your Brain
Gratitude can lead to more happiness, more peace, and even an increased immune system. But is it possible to practice gratitude no matter what is going on outside of us?
There answer is yes and this article gives you the reasons why and a roadmap on how to do it.
This is the time of year when the practice of gratitude (hopefully) becomes foremost in our minds. For me, it is a reminder to get back to my conscious practice of being grateful EVERY DAY.
Sometimes that is easier said than done.
There are a lot of psychological and physiological health benefits to practicing gratitude, In fact, Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude had a lot to say about why gratitude is good for our physical, emotional and spiritual health and has a positive impact on our relationships.
My gratitude practice consists of two ideas that were given to me by two coaches a few years ago—write down my accomplishments AND what I'm grateful for EVERY night before going to bed.
One coach suggested that I write down what I accomplished each day because, she told me, that as a solopreneur, there would be times I'd forget how hard I was working. "Write it down so that you are aren't beating yourself up for what you did not do," she said. Good advice for all of us!
Another coach suggested that I think or write down five to ten things I am grateful for right before bed to shift my energy into a state of gratitude.
Dr. Wayne Dyer agrees with this philosophy and has a terrific five-minute meditation that I suggest listening to it each night before you go to sleep to program your brain for gratitude.
Dr. Dyer says that you have to be careful right before you go to sleep because whatever your last thoughts are, your brain is about to marinate in those thoughts for the next six to eight hours. If you are like most people, right before bed, we tend to review our day and focus on the negative.
"You want to be real careful because you are programming your subconscious mind," he says.
He goes on to read a quote from the Book of Job:
‘In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, whilst slumbering on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and seals their instruction.' JOB 33:15-16
What you think before you go to sleep, gets sealed into your brain, reinforcing those negatives habits and thoughts until it feels like they are real instead of just ideas you had.
I use the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 when doing organizational training or with individual clients. I like it because it gives people a very accurate psychological assessment in ten minutes, based on research with millions of respondents.
Why do I bring this up?
Recently I was working with a client to help her better understand how to read other people's emotions and respond appropriately. One of the practices she took on was "visualizing success." In other words, thinking about interactions that she was going to have with people the next day, and visualize herself succeeding in those interactions.
What I found fascinating is, that according to research, an MRI scan of the brain shows that the mind cannot tell the difference between the human mind watching a sunset or visualizing a sunset. The areas of the brain that are impacted in both instances ARE THE SAME according to the MRI.
What I've concluded from this is that when you practice gratitude right before going to bed, it doesn't matter how incredibly shitty your day might have been, you can train your mind to think all is well. Thus, impacted your emotions, your attitude, and your physical state.
If your brain is in a state of gratitude, you reap enormous benefits according to Dr. Emmons in his article. He and his researchers studied more than "one thousand people between the ages of eight and 80 and found that people who practice consistently gratitude report a host of benefits such as:
Stronger immune systems
Less bothered by aches and pains
Lower blood pressure
Exercise more and take better care of their health
Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
Higher levels of positive emotions
More alert, alive, and awake
More joy and pleasure
More optimism and happiness
More helpful, generous, and compassionate
Feel less lonely and isolated."
Wow, just reading all those benefits is giving me renewed commitment to practice my nightly dose of gratitude. How about you?
What are you grateful for this season? Here are a few things I am grateful for, in no particular order:
You. Yes. You. For reading this post and allowing me to make a difference for you. Thank you.
Oddly enough, President Trump and his policies because the craziness we are experiencing gives us two opportunities. One is to see ALL of the areas that are in need of healing that much more clearly. And two, to be able to step into our power and recognize and OWN our power and do something about what we are seeing.
All of the people who have stepped up to help others in need during this exhausting time of mass shootings, wildfires, hurricanes and general discord in our society. Thank you for your leadership, your compassion, your empathy and your love.
My amazing family, friends, associates, partners, and colleagues who have witnessed my journey, supported me, coached me, and challenged me along the way. I love you.
Finally I am grateful for my ability to always choose love, no matter what is going on in my life. I know when I consciously choose love I am in vibrational alignment with all that is and all that ever will be. I know I am on my chosen path.