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The Science of Gratitude And Why We Should Practice It Everyday

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There are studies for just about everything these days. From vampire trees that steal nutrients from the neighboring trees or the study focused on chickens and how they prefer to peck the faces of beautiful people, so naturally there are studies on how and why gratitude, or the lack thereof, would affect us.


According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, teamed up to conduct a study on gratitude. In this study they created two groups of participants. One group wrote about the things that annoyed them all week, while the other group wrote about things that they appreciated. At the end of a 10-week span, the doctors found that the group that focused on things they appreciated came out of the study a bit more optimistic about their lives. You can read more about the study here.


ARE THESE STUDIES RIGGED OR UNFAIR?

University of California Berkeley thought of this and decided to conduct another study on gratitude, but with a twist. They gathered that many of these participants in countless other studies may already have a propensity to be optimistic. They decided to conduct a study on 300 participants who were seeking out counseling for mental health and struggled with anxiety or depression. The Berkeley researchers split their participants up into three groups. One group wrote about negative experiences, while another group wrote letters of gratitude, and lastly, the third group didn’t participate in any weekly writing. Although these participants had struggles with mental health in some form, the findings in this study were the same as all the others that preceded. The people who wrote what they were grateful for came out of the 12-week study thanking their lucky stars they were in that group. I’m kidding, but seriously, they were more optimistic than both of the other groups of participants. Read more about this study here.


GRATITUDE MAKES YOUR BRAIN FEEL GOOD

When we remind our brain of the things we are grateful for, dopamine is released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps send messages between nerve cells. Dopamine has been coined the “feel good” neurotransmitter because it is released when we are in anticipation of an award. This neurotransmitter is what plants a smile on our faces and makes us feel all nice and fuzzy inside. I think about the Grinch the moment he realized that maybe there was something to the act of giving and guess what? In the end that mean old Grinch seemed pretty grateful for those Whos of Whoville after all.


SO HOW DO I INCORPORATE GRATITUDE?

Journaling or simply just taking notes in your phone every morning or before you go to bed would be a great way to practice gratitude. Another great way to incorporate gratitude is having conversations with your family or friends about what you are personally grateful for. It’s an especially good way to interact with your children because they then start to pick up the healthy habit of focusing on what they are grateful for. However, if chatting isn’t really your thing, you can always simply take a few minutes a day in a quiet comfortable space to meditate on all the wonderful things in your life. If you already practice gratitude, in what ways?  Comment Below.



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