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The Neurological Magic Of Gratitude – Transforming Brain, Bonds, And Business

Written by: Heather J. Crider, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Heather J. Crider

One of the common phrases I use is, I'm so grateful. I say it. I mean it. But I don't reflect on it nor savor it as much as I can, losing some of the essential brain benefits of gratitude.

Person holding white print card with label Grateful

Gratitude is a powerful emotion. Unfortunately, most of us don't realize how powerful gratitude is. It transcends borders, cultures, and languages. The world celebrates gratitude on September 21st, known as World Gratitude Day, recognizing its universal impact. This day serves as a reminder to express our appreciation, acknowledge the goodness in our lives, and recognize that the source of this goodness is often outside ourselves, coming from other people.

The science of gratitude and the brain

Professor Steven Toepfer's research from Kent State University unveiled fascinating insights into gratitude and its effects on our well-being. The study revealed that participants who penned letters of gratitude experienced a notable increase in happiness and life satisfaction. While the research mainly focused on the senders, it's not just the writers who benefit—indications from feedback hint at positive impacts on the recipients as well.

Moreover, gratitude does wonders for the brain. An article from the National Health Association delves into the neurochemistry behind gratitude. It highlights that one of the neurochemicals associated with areas of the brain affected by gratitude is dopamine—a hormone closely linked with pleasure and reward. Simply put, gratitude makes us feel good at a molecular level, rewiring our brain to lean towards happiness.

Gratitude and relationships

Gratitude is not merely an internal experience. When expressed, it acts as a bridge, fostering deeper connections, appreciation, positivity, and a sense of worthiness. Such actions amplify emotional benefits, including boosting self-confidence, empathy, resiliency, and fulfillment. But why is this simple act so potent?

Words wield immense power. As emphasized by Mark Waldman in his article "Neuroscience Behind Words," the words we choose have the capacity to shape our brains. Positive words, like those used in expressions of gratitude, can propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resilience.

Gratitude in the workplace

Carrying gratitude into our professional lives can sow seeds of remarkable transformation. Workspaces that emphasize appreciation and acknowledgment enjoy better mental and physical health among employees, elevated team morale, and greater organizational success. Simple gestures like handwritten thank-you notes or meditative moments of appreciation can do wonders.

Beyond the immediate emotional response, gratitude has tangible professional benefits. It enhances interpersonal relationships, smoothens workflow, boosts job satisfaction, and productivity, and significantly improves retention rates.

Quotes, reflections, and practical exercises

William Arthur Ward’s timeless wisdom reminds us, "Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." Such profound insights beckon us to deeply reflect on our own feelings and expressions of gratitude.

Reflection prompts

  1. The Last Time: When was the last time you genuinely expressed gratitude, and how did it make you feel?

  2. Unspoken Thanks: Think about someone you're grateful for but haven't told recently. Why are you thankful for them, and what's stopping you from expressing it?

  3. Gratitude in Adversity: Can you recall a challenging moment in your life where you found something to be grateful for?

Practical exercises to cultivate gratitude

  1. Gratitude Journal: Dedicate a few minutes daily to jot down three things you're grateful for. They can be as monumental as a life-changing event or as simple as a comforting cup of tea.

  2. Letter of Thanks: Once a week, take some time to write a heartfelt letter of gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life. Even if you choose not to send it, the act of writing can be profoundly therapeutic.

  3. Gratitude Reminder: Set a daily reminder on your phone or computer to pause for a minute, breathe deeply, and think of one thing you're thankful for. This simple routine can act as a 'reset button', especially during a hectic day.

  4. Gratitude Walk: Go on a nature walk, but with a twist. For every step you take, think of something you're grateful for. This can turn an ordinary walk into a rejuvenating experience.

Embracing gratitude year-round goes beyond a mere feel-good factor. It is instrumental in improving mental and physical health, fostering effective workplace communication, and enhancing productivity. As we recognize and celebrate World Gratitude Day, let it not be a one-off event but a daily practice, inviting the neurological magic of gratitude to reshape our brains, our relationships, and our professional connections, I know I will do a better job moving forward!

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Heather J. Crider Brainz Magazine

Heather J. Crider, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Heather J. Crider is a high-performance neuro coach on a mission to eradicate self-doubt, fuel resilience, and create limitless freedom. After experiencing several significant emotional experiences, she knew there had to be a better way to live without stress and struggle. She has dedicated her life to helping others (re)discover greatness by fueling passion and applying practical strategies to 'filter the funk' to retrain and optimize the brain for success. A keynote speaker, host of the Go Reflect Yourself Podcast, and creator of numerous brain-based transformational programs, her mission is to help make the world a more compassionate & mindful place, starting with one thought & one mind at a time.



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