Gratitude is More Than a Feeling!
Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday. We get to spend time with loved ones and family . . . no gifts required, we get to eat good food and participate in family traditions. It doesn’t matter what religious beliefs you have or don’t have . . . it is an opportunity to express what we are grateful for with the people we love. When we are saying “Happy Thanksgiving” we are saying that “Thanksgiving makes us Happy.” It’s true! However, Thanksgiving and gratitude are more than a feeling.
Christina Karns Ph.D. of the University of Oregon says, “People’s definition of gratitude vary-some call it an attitude, some call it an action, some call in an emotion. It is really more than one thing,” she says. As an emotion, it is complex and is made up of other emotions. Gratitude feels good-it is rewarding-but it can also be overwhelming and humbling (when you) consider what others have done for us.”
Studies are showing that people with higher levels of gratitude experience more activity in the hypothalamus, which is the “control center” for everything from functions like eating, drinking and sleeping to metabolism and stress levels. Like other feel-good emotions such as love and compassion, gratitude releases a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes us feel great both physically and emotionally. That’s why, scientists say it improves sleep, lessens physical discomfort, and lowers stress and anxiety.
It also helps create what they call a “virtuous cycle”-as you get the feel-good rush of gratitude, your brain starts looking for more things to be grateful for, hoping to get that next boost of energy. The more we look (and find) things we’re grateful for, the more we realize how blessed we are.
After practicing gratitude for years and seeing how it improved her life and helped her through hard times, Dr. Christina Karn began researching how it affects the way our brains are wired and how gratitude affects our reward systems.
With MMR imaging there is research that shows several regions of the brain are affected by gratitude. Her research shows that gratitude relies on and triggers multiple brain systems, so she is now studying how gratitude base exercises can change our behavior, affect brain responses and improve our connections with other people.
It’s fascinating how much we can change what our brain processes moment to moment, and how those changes can affect the wiring of the brain long term,” While her studies have not yet identified how long an act of gratitude affects the brain, or if that effect can be prolonged, one things has become clear: “Gratitude will make lasting changes in the brain-but only if you keep practicing!”
Consistency is key, experts agree. Robert Emmons Ph.D., of the University of California, Davis, has shown that people who keep a gratitude journal significantly increase their wellbeing over time, something he attributes to the way it makes us focus on the positives rather than the negatives. It helps us overcome what psychologists call our “negativity bias,” the natural tendency to remember negative experiences over positive ones.
We are conditioned to focus on what’s not working rather than looking at what is working. Gratitude changes what we look at and how we see it.
In fact, one Gallup study reports that more than 90 percent of American teens and adults said expressing gratitude made them “somewhat” or “extremely” happy. This same mindset is backed up by numerous studies showing the link between expressing gratitude and an emotionally fulfilling life, personal growth, forgiveness, hope, optimism and even positive global effect.
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November 7 10:00 am
21 Day Gratitude Challenge
I would like to personally invite you to participate with us on our free webinar entitled 21 Day Gratitude Challenge. This is the perfect opportunity and the perfect month to focus our attention on the power of gratitude. We will discuss how “Gratitude is More Than a Feeling,” it is an emotion as well as an action based behavior. You will not want to miss the current research about gratitude and why it is making such a difference in everybody’s lives! Email us at email@example.com to register for our free webinar! Get registered today!
The Institute of Healing Arts