How gratitude changes you and your brain

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Gratitude has lots of positive effects on the individual and his brain. Gratitude can make you happier and more satisfied with life, and it can also reduce anxiety and depression. Being grateful can also make you feel more connected and supported, and it can even improve your physical health and sleep quality. Gratitude has been shown to activate areas of the brain associated with reward and pleasure, such as the ventral striatum and the medial prefrontal cortex. It also increases the activity of the hypothalamus, which regulates stress. 

Being grateful can make some pretty big positive changes, both for the person and their brain.

Frederick Buechner (Blog Banner)

Frederick Buechner said, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.”

The best way to overcome fear, negativity, sorrow, frustration, and resentment is to turn our attention toward gratitude. 

Gratitude, in its most powerful form, is a verb.  It lives in my active reflections and in my actual actions.  It’s intentional—and the more I tend to it, the more of it I find.  

Take some time in active reflection of what was.  Here is a set of simple, yet powerful activities to help you find gratitude. 

Ask yourself:

  • What do want to let go?
  • What do you want to honor?
  • What do you want to keep?
  • What will you remember?
  •  For what are you grateful?

And next, take some time in active anticipation of what will be

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to start?
  • What do you want to stop?
  • What do you want to revise?
  • How would you like to remember it? One year from now, what do you hope to say about the year you’ve just had?
  •  For what are you grateful?

Sometimes our brains need a gratitude primer, to get into a grateful state.  A tried-and-true method of doing that is to write out your Love List.

  •       What do you love? Write down everything you can think of, from your most important people to your coziest socks.  

Most of us can point to a person or ten for whom we are grateful, finally. Someone who lights up our hearts when they cross our minds. When’s the last time you told such a person that you felt that way?

  •  Text someone now.  Text them a “thank you.” Text them to set up a coffee date.  Text them to get their address, to send them a good old-fashioned thank you letter. 

When we turn our minds towards gratitude, our hearts follow. The more you think about, talk about, and write about the things for which you are grateful, the more of those things you will find.

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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.