Ways to improve your brain with gratitude

What are you grateful for in this moment? Many people gather together around thanks giving and share gratitude with each other. This creates positive chemical reactions in the body and this post will show you ways to improve your brain with gratitude.

What exactly is gratitude? It’s the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to you. It doesn’t take expensive objects or big things to be grateful. You can train yourself to be grateful for the little things in life.

Gratitude is one of the most important emotions a human can give or feel. This feeling is so powerful, it can be used to lift mood, heal anxiety, reduce depression and make you a happier person. What’s the science of gratitude?

The science of gratitude  

Neuroscience reveals how gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Centre say that using gratitude on a daily basis improves the grey matter in our brains functioning which in turn make us happier and healthier.

Another study at the Indiana University had 43 people who were involved with counselling for anxiety or depression. 22 of the 43 were given daily gratitude exercises and 3 months after where all reassessed and given a follow up brain scan. They found that not only where the 22 variants more grateful in life, but that had long lasting improvements from their treatment and brain scans showing similar improvements as the UCLA studies.

I could keep digging up the scientific evidence but I‘ll just leave you with one more. University of California had 2 psychologists which had 3 groups of participants write a few sentences about their days everyday. Group 1 was to write about all the things they were grateful for, Group 2 wrote about all their annoyances during the day and group 3 wrote about their day with no emphasis on any positive or negative.  After 10 weeks, it was clear that Group 1 was more optimistic, happier, exercised more often and had made less visits to the doctors.

It clear to say the science proves that incorporating a daily gratitude practice which can take such little time is extremely powerful. The brain scans show clear activation in the hypothalamus area when gratitude is used which links to healthy nervous system. This s why gratitude is one of the healthiest of emotions to have.

“Cultivate an attitude of gratitude”

How to do gratitude

Now this is a meditation website, but I say to people who do not like to meditate and trying to improve their life, you must be using gratitude regularly.

Here are some of the simple techniques of gratitude.

 Be grateful for waking up

On waking, try to make your first thoughts thankful ones. Even when I haven’t slept well, my kids have been waking me up all night or just I wake up tired, I try to be thankful and this changes my mood and energy very quickly.

I also say, ‘Thank You’ as my feet touch the ground as I get off my bed. ‘Thank’ for my left foot and ‘You’ for my right foot.

Being grateful for things like a roof over my family, running water to drink and clothes to wear are just some

of the basic things which I’m appreciative for on a daily wake up.

gratitude

Keep a daily gratitude journal

Simply write 3 things in the morning that you are grateful and then repeat this processing the evening before you go to bed. This is by far the most profound way to affect your mood, energy, brain and sleep.

Can’t think of things to be grateful for? Count all the things in life that money can’t buy.

As mentioned above, these things can be as little or large as you like. Some of my regulars are my health, family, a cup of coffee, good night sleep or catching up with a friends.

You buy gratitude journals with inspiring quotes and decorative covers, but any old notebook will do the job.

gratitude journal

Tell someone you appreciate them

Share gratitude with family, friends or work colleges regularly. This is an extremely powerful way to release the dopamine into the brain and rapidly increase brain function. It’s not just a feel-good experience for you but also the recipient of this emotion.

When you do this regularly, you’ll notice that many more people will be more grateful for you too.

Gratitude object

Do you forget to be grateful? Find a small special object you can keep on you at all times. This could be a special small rock you found in a river or special key ring. Whatever the object is, tell yourself that whenever you see or touch this object, you become aware of being grateful.

Continuing to be mindful of gratitude throughout your day will increase your positivity and enforce a natural state of gratitude.

gratitude rock

Practice mindfulness in nature

To be in a grateful state, you need to be present in the moment. Mindfulness exercises like meditation will help you to become more present and in tune with these moments of gratitude.

You can amplify this state by being mindful in nature. My favourite technique is to go hiking on a simple walking track which ends up feeling like a walking meditation. I feel grateful for so many things when I get a chance to do this.

Reduce the inner critic

You can super charge this state of gratitude with judging less. Along with a regular mindfulness practice, gratitude will automatically reduce your judgement but becoming more aware of judging others critically will reinforce this state of bliss.

Be grateful for yourself

Lastly be grateful for yourself. Spend a minute and look in the mirror and be grateful for the person you are, what you have achieved and what you will do in the future.

Once you can accept yourself in your gratitude method, you will find it so much easier to be grateful for others and find the hidden gems in life to be grateful for.

 

What are some of your gratitude techniques? We’d love to hear them so leave them in the comments below.

50 Comments on Ways to improve your brain with gratitude

  1. Great article, it does seem counter intuitive when you’re depressed to think of things that you’re grateful for but it does wonders for keeping your mindset positive!

    It’s pretty amazing how little things like appreciating something as seemingly minimal as a cup of coffee can release chemicals in your brain that make you feel good.

    The human brain is a pretty impressive work of art! Thanks for spreading this information, I’m sure lots of people will benefit from reading it. 🙂

  2. Hi Vince, Thank you so much for sharing us with such a positive gratitude. You are right we need to appreciate everything we have. Right now I am truly appreciating your article which provides so much positive energy. With this positive energy, I feel I could accomplish much more and I could move forward swifty.

  3. What a great attitude!

    I think it was earlier this year that I noticed I complained a lot; I wouldn’t really speak those complaints, but I was thinking them, or what I call grumbling. I decided to change the grumbling to gratitude and even started a “Gratitude Journal”. I don’t write in it every day – probably something I should change – but I do write it several times a week.

    I like what you said about being present; too often, we can spend so much time thinking about what we want to do or experience for a future date, that we’re too distracted to enjoy what’s right in front of us.

    Thanks for getting us into that gratitude mode, Vince!

    • My pleasure Veronica and thanks for your visit.
      I too try to journal most days but the busyness of life stops me from making it everyday. I have tried my best to follow a morning ritual of meditation, gratitude journal and then the day.

  4. Wow! I did not know that gratitude was backed up by neuroscience. That is very reassuring to know. It sounds like a wonderful self reinforcing habit. You are grateful for what you have and then good things happen. It becomes an upward spiral of goodness.

    Personally when I want to feel good, I think of a positive memory and then that uplifts my spirit. Everyone has had something good in their lives at some point. Whether it be a loving Mom or a good time with friends, there is always something positive to think about. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Hey Vince,

    Telling someone that you appreciate them is vitally important for not only that person but definitely for yourself as well.

    I believe that people with an ungrateful spirit are very unhappy people.

    However, I think I have an issue with just being grateful or having a heart of gratitude in general if it is not directed towards something. Or better, Someone!

    As a created being that is given breath and life to live on this earth to enjoy beauty, art, friendships, love, family, a quit walk, a good movie, a warm house during winter months, etc, we should all be thankful and direct our gratitude ultimately to the Creator God of the universe, the only One and True God. The God of the Bible.

    A lot have a different opinion then me I am sure and they are certainly entitled to their own opinion but your post got me to think this out a bit.

    Thanks for how it was written.

  6. I like the level of depth that you have gone into to explain the benefits of cultivating an attitude of gratitude. It is such a simple concept but many of us use excuses such as we don’t have time, we’re too busy etc… However when we don’t cultivate an attitude of gratitude as you suggest, we miss out on life’s precious moments and decrease the quality of life’s experiences.

  7. Such an eye-opening post. In an age where we take everything for granted, I think so many people could find this article beneficial in many ways. I like the idea about using a journal…writing things down in the morning, then again before bed. I can already imagine how much help this would be for my family and I. Also, appreciating someone is on a whole other level. Thank you again for all these wonderful tips!

    • You welcome Brandon. The journal is by far the best gratitude technique I have discovered. It raises the emotional level and has profound effects on life.

  8. Hi, I would like to thank you for sharing such a great topic.I agree that we must form a habit of offering gratitude without fail. First thing in the morning we must offer our gratitude to the god thanking him for giving us one more day. Gratitude leads to positive way of thinking which improve the way of Living

  9. Vince,
    I had no idea so much academic research was going into gratitude. I am grateful for your posting the links to the research as well. I can definitely connect with what you said about the inner critic. That can be an overwhelming voice in my head more often than I care to admit. It’s so hard to feel gratitude when that alarm, or dog, or whatever it is that abruptly wakes you up causes you to get less rest than you like. This will be a work in progress for me.

    • It certainly is hard to create grateful moments when the alarm is screaming at you but it does become more natural and easier.
      Thanks for stopping by Neil.

  10. Great article, it is very important for mindfulness and relaxed mind with gratitude. It plays a very important role in living a happy and healthy life. Thank you so much for sharing all this useful information with us…

  11. I think a lot of people who are depressed or going through a hard time forget to be thankful for what they have. It’s very easy to focus on negative things when we feel we have failed or not done something the way we envisioned.

    I do have a question for you though. When negative thoughts come into our mind. Are there any tactics we can use to help change our mindset.

    I’m going to try this every morning for 2 weeks and see what kind of results it has in my mood throughout the day.

    • Thanks for your comment Garen. 2 Weeks will definitely provide results.
      In regards to negative thoughts, we all have them and they will not dissipate. But the way we attached to them can be managed. My tips for managing negative thoughts:
      1. Meditate regularly
      2. If negative thought arise, use a cartoon voice to say them in your head. This will change the your emotion to the thought
      3. Label the emotion attached with the thought. If it’s fear or anger, tell yourself as you think it, this is just fear or anger. Telling yourself this changes the state of your brain.
      Hope these tips help.

      • Hey Vince,

        Thanks a lot for your response. I like the tip on imagining a cartoon voice is saying something negatively. This will take away from the negative connotation that is attached with the emotion.

        I’ve been into aromatherapy for several years now. I got interested in them when my mother was in the hospital. The first thing you wanted me to do when she got home was get rid of all the stuff she had in the hospital because of the smell. This made me think just how powerful smell can be.

        What scents do you use when you meditate? I have over 25 different scents :). I know some of the like peppermint stimulate the mind which probably wouldn’t be ideal for meditation.

        • Peppermint is one of my most used essential oil. I’ve also used frankincense for healing and lavender for focus.
          There are so many benefits from these natural oils when use in the correct way.

  12. Thank you for your article. It came at a great time when I came across it. I have been very depressed lately as I lost a job, got in a car accident, and loss a relative wishing 2 months. I did find that looking at the positive and thinking of the things in my life that I am grateful for really helped. Keep up the great work.

    • I’m sorry to hear about the rough patch you are going through at the moment and I’m confident that you will rise through it with your positive mindset.
      All the best Hannah.

  13. Great article Vince, I will be trying some of your tips straight away, I’ve never really tried thinking about what I’ve been blessed with in life! So its about time I gave it a go
    All the best Andy

  14. Wonderful message on this page here. Another good practice is thinking about the things that we’re grateful for (in general or that day) JUST BEFORE we fall asleep. It is said that our subconscious is ‘defenceless’ during that time, along with right after we wake up from sleep. During that time, the gratitude that we feel will take hold in our subconscious mind and be more effective in changing our lives.

  15. I appreciate you writing this article, it is a very good one, and has a lot of meaning to it. We have to think of others first, to have true happiness, and get things to go our way, is to help others. That makes us feel better and want to do more. We have got to be thankful, for what we have. Great post

  16. Hi Vince,
    Thanks for this positive post. I especially like the idea of journaling morning and night. My faith is what helps me the most, and adding these ideas to it will only help!
    Blessings,
    Suzanne

  17. Great read!

    I’m a true believer in positive vibes and energy! I like your idea of a gratitude journal, It always helps to have written reminders of things such as this to help hone your focus. I’m definitely going to start doing this for the days I’m not quite feeling 100%.

    Cheers

  18. We often occupy our minds with trivial, unnecessary things, we complain (out loud or in our minds), and notice the things we don’t have and feel bad about it or feel how unfair it is.. I also had this problem in life and it takes some exercise to start thinking and living differently.
    Now, I see every unpleasant situation as an opportunity to find something good in it. And it’s often possible. The overall feeling and perception of life improves, especially when you realize that you don’t need the things you think you need, just because some one else has them.. It’s easy to start with little things, like being happy and grateful when you perform well.. And it “spreads” to other areas, such as appreciating other people more, being happy with what you have, with your life.. And consequently, being a more positive, grateful and happy person!
    Great article, very helpful tips!

  19. Hi Vince,
    Thanks for the reminder. We really need to consider this daily. What to be grateful for is truly an inexhaustible subject and yet we find ourselves focusing on the negative.
    Great tip to use a meaningful object to remind us daily to think and reflect on this.

    All the best to you,
    ~Bob

  20. I’m definitely going to start doing this for the days I’m not quite feeling that great. I’m a true believer in positive vibes and energy! I like your idea of appreciation in the journal, It always helps to have written reminders of things such as this to help hone your focus.

    • Thanks for your comment Richard. Writing goal down is so powerful. It’s like writing your future which can be more powerful than thinking your future.

    • Very true Roger. Surrounding yourself with empowering people can optimize your energy and outcomes.
      Appreciate your comment and all the best.

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