Neuroscientists Explain How Gratitude Rewires the Brain to Lower Anxiety
As you grew up, your parents instilled proper manners like saying “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” They wanted to raise a child who knew the importance of being grateful. What they didn’t realize is that expressing gratitude rewires the brain and may help to ease anxiety.
Imagine awakening this morning, sitting up in bed, and noticing your surroundings. If you only had the people and things you were thankful for yesterday, what would you have? It’s a sobering thought attributed to several writers and famous people.
All the small blessings you took for granted are suddenly monumental when they’re gone. When you practice being thankful, you try to acknowledge each benefit, no matter how small. Your gracious attitude creates a positive atmosphere that rewires the brain and may reduce stress and anxiety.
How Gratefulness Rewires Your Brain
Being thankful goes beyond simple gestures and appreciative words. Did you know that certain parts of your brain are responsible for your response to gratefulness? Scientists are learning more about this possible connection with neurotransmission.
A study published by Frontiers in Psychology links gratefulness to neural activities in the nervous system. These emotions seem to be centered in the brain’s frontal lobes and hypothalamus, per the study. Since these areas also affect mood, it rewires the brain to boost your sense of well-being.
Three Possible Benefits of Gratitude
How do you feel when you pause for a few moments to count your blessings? It’s hard to frown when you consider how fortunate you’re and all the blessings in your life. Even when you are weary and stressed, a grateful heart can help you shoulder the burdens.
Gratefulness rewires the brain and prompts you to focus on more positive aspects. The more thankful you are, the more opportunities you’ll have to offer your thanks. Here are some other benefits of gratefulness for your body, mind, and spirit.
1. Being Grateful Rewires the Brain for Emotional Benefits
1. Of the approximately 27 human emotions you have, not all are positive. Ruminating on negative emotions can have toxic effects. Your physical and mental health will be compromised as well as your relationships.
Being thankful rewires the brain since it’s centered in the same place as your emotions. When you fill your heart with gratefulness, you have less room for chronic anger, bitterness, and despair. Even when you experience these negative emotions, your thankfulness and joy will help buffer them.
2. Gratitude Rewires Your Brain for Better Sleep
What’s happening in your mind during a sleepless night? You’re probably staring at the ceiling and worrying about a deadline at work or problems at home. The following day, you’re guzzling coffee to emerge from the dense brain fog.
During deep sleep, your brain goes on autopilot, and your body rests. If your mind is preoccupied with worry and anxiety, you won’t sleep well. The good news is that thankfulness rewires the brain and gives it a break, so you’ll awaken refreshed in the morning.
3. Stress Reduction
The very act of living is stressful, so there’s no getting around it. Your life is like a printout of your heartbeat from an EKG. Everyone’s reading is a bit different and is an endless series of highs and lows. The only time the line is flat is when you leave this earth.
You need a certain amount of stress to learn and grow. It triggers your brain’s automatic survival instinct of fight, flight, freeze, or faint. Without it, the human race would have been extinct ages ago.
However, chronic stress keeps your body in survival mode. It becomes overdosed with stress hormones that are only intended for acute emergencies. Regular flows of adrenaline and cortisol can be a threat to your health and your life.
Focusing on the positive things can ease undue stress and its adverse effects on your body. You may consider keeping a journal or meditating on encouraging more gratefulness. It may take a while, but you’ll soon notice that you’re calmer and can de-stress more easily.
How Being Thankful Rewires the Brain to Lower Anxiety?
According to an article published by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, over 40 million people in America have anxiety issues. It’s also the most common mental illness, shares the article. The condition can be one of four types: generalized anxiety, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or phobias.
Are you one of those people who struggle with anxiety, or do you have depression? An article published by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance states that at least 17.3 million Americans battle a depression disorder any given year. It’s not uncommon to have a mixture of anxiety and depression.
When you have an anxiety disorder, just thinking about it makes the symptoms worse. It can be so miserable that you feel as if you’ve lost yourself. Here are some ways that cultivating gratefulness can reduce your anxiety and boost your joy.
1. Your Internal Conversation Will Change
Everyone has an internal chat with themselves that’s never-ending. It’s the still, small voice of intuition that guides your life. Positive self-talk reminds you that you’re loved, worthy, and beautiful just as you are.
Unfortunately, trauma, abuse, and mental illness can distort your inner voice to whisper negative and false things. Listening to a perpetual loop of negative self-talk plummets your self-esteem and can cause anxiety.
Surrounding yourself with gratefulness can rewrite your internal conversation. It will expose false assumptions and beliefs and allow you to be more positive. Such positive affirmations can stifle negativity and anxiety.
2. You’ll Have More Clarity in Your Life
Have you ever expressed your gratefulness for being you? There’s never been anyone just like you in the past, nor will there be in the future. Your singular personality is a treasured gift for which you can give thanks.
Changing your internal dialog and acknowledging your daily benefits help you understand yourself better. Gratefulness highlights your talents and shows you areas where you can improve. As you know yourself better, you will be more self-compassionate, less anxious, and have more clarity for your life’s goals.
How to Bring More Gratefulness into Your Day
The beauty of being thankful is that it benefits you and whomever you thank. It makes you smile, and you feel worthy and loved. Try these suggestions for creating a heart of thanksgiving, a daily habit.
1. Saying Grace Before Your Meal Rewires the Brain to Feel Grateful
One visit to a third-world country would bring you instant gratefulness for the abundance of food and clean water in this country. As you sit with your loved ones around the dinner table, take a moment to express your thanks.
You needn’t be a religious person to appreciate nutritious food and drink. Savor each bite and be mindful of flavor, aroma, and texture. Enjoy meaningful conversation and bless the moment.
2. Show Your Appreciation
It’s too easy to take folks for granted when you’re busy with family, work, and other social obligations. Make it a point to thank the people in your life who is such a blessing to you. Please show your appreciation and do kind deeds for them, too.
3. Keep a Journal
You’ve probably heard others discuss the wisdom of counting your blessings. It may be easier if you make a list in your journal. Some people enjoy keeping a journal specifically for expressing thanks.
Remember that no blessing is too trivial to add to your list. If you journal each day, maybe you can leave a space for a unique benefit you received that day. When you feel depressed or anxious, reflect on past entries for inspiration.
4. Boost Your Spirituality
Even if you don’t subscribe to any religion or deity, you’re still a spiritual being. Your spirit longs to connect with a Higher Power at a cosmic level. You can call it God, the Universe, or even the Collective Consciousness.
There’s a feeling of unity when you commune with the Universe and express your gratefulness. It’s part of the law of attraction which says that you’ll attract whatever you speak into the atmosphere. Positive affirmations of love and thanksgiving attract the same.
5. Meditation Rewires the Brain and Boosts Positivity
You needn’t belong to a commune to reap the benefits of mediation, as these are old and outdated views. Mediation is a beautiful way of observing your thoughts, emotions, and intentions from the inside. Schedule at least fifteen to twenty minutes a day to sit in a quiet space, relax, and breathe. Let your mind go free without judgment.
Focus on the gifts in your life and how you appreciate all the gifts you have in your life. As you meditate, you can visualize the changes you want in your life. Agree with the Universe and allow these affirmations to become a reality. Gratefulness opens your soul to new opportunities and moments of grace.
Final Thoughts on How Being Grateful Rewires the Brain to Reduce Anxiety
There’s a vast difference between those who say “thank you” and those who feel ungrateful and entitled. Making appreciation a habit will foster more positivity and less anxiety as it rewires the brain. You’ll have better clarity and a life of joy and satisfaction.