GIVE THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE: and your brain and body will reward you
Like your muscles, your brain changes when you ‘exercise’ it and repeatedly use particular functions, actually changing its neural structures to reflect what you are focusing on. For example, a famous study found that London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus (involved in memory) and more recently, violinists have been shown to have larger brain areas that correspond to the touch of the hand that feels the strings, compared to their bow holding hand.
So with this in mind it is not surprising, that when we focus on being thankful for the various elements of our life, neuroscientists have discovered that there are lots of positive benefits with many different brain regions involved, including the reward centre and social and interpersonal bonding. Research has revealed that when we concentrate on being thankful for what we have, it improves our physical and mental health.
In addition to lowering stress and increasing optimism, cultivating an attitude of daily gratitude leads to action. Recording what you are grateful for every day means that you feel more energised, vibrant and in a study by Dr Robert Emmons, more likely to achieve your goals. Many of my clients will recognise this, as they have taken up my challenge of an action of writing 5 successes and 5 gratefuls every day and in doing this, train their brain on what to focus on.
So this festive season, actively attend to what you are thankful for in your life. It is amazing what we can take for granted, especially as the brain tends to ignore things that are constant in our life. This is because things that stay the same are deemed less of a threat to our survival (as opposed to something new).
I will be sharing what I am grateful for each day of Advent and the connection to how each one contributes to brain friendly peak performance.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward