5 Ways Gratitude Changes our Brains
Ben Greenfield is launching his Christian Gratitude Journal on Kickstarter today.
He's on the OPP sharing the science behind the powerful and positive impact gratitude practices have on our brains (regardless of religious affiliation).
And it's Ben Greenfield, so you know we talk about much more - including oxytocin injections, red light therapy, hyper- and hypo oxygen training, mitochondria, telomeres and Ben's top tips for life extension.
How Gratitude Changes Our Brains
A brain-scanning study in NeuroImage brings us a little closer to understanding why gratitude has these effects. The results suggest that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains are still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude tasks work, at least in part, because they have a self-perpetuating nature:
"The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits." - Ben Greenfield
Here are some of the benefits and research Ben shared on this episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast.
1. Gratitude Improves Mental Health
A 2015 article in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences showed that “higher levels of gratitude were associated with higher levels of personal well-being, greater life satisfaction, and lower levels of psychological distress.”
A 2014 study by researchers in the Indian Journal of Positive Psychology found that gratitude increases happiness.
A pair of 2014 studies from Utrecht University in the Netherlands found that both gratitude and acts of kindness have a strong impact on positive emotions. This is especially fascinating when you consider the work of folks like Bruce Lipton, author of Biology of Belief or Jerry Tennant, author of Healing is Voltage, or David Hawkins, author of Healing & Recovery, who all draw extremely strong correlations between positive emotions, quantum physics, and changes in protein configurations and cell membrane voltage.
2. Gratitude Improves Physical Health
This 2015 paper in the Journal of Religion and Health found that those who were more grateful for who they are and what they have were more hopeful and also physically healthier.
Psychology Today cites several studies that found people who report being more grateful also report feeling fewer aches and pains, and are more likely to go to the doctor and take care of themselves.
Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good.
3. Gratitude Improves Resiliency
In a 2006 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, scientists found that Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude were more resilient, and less impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another 2003 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people with neuromuscular diseases who kept “gratitude journals” reported a greater sense of well-being and more positive moods at the end of the study, compared with those who didn’t make such lists.
4. Gratitude Activates the Brain Stem Region that Releases Dopamine and Serotonin
The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.
Like the anti-depressant Prozac, gratitude increases circulating levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Thinking of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.
5. Gratitude Improves Sleep
A 2009 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that those who expressed gratitude more often slept better and longer than those who didn’t.
According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep. Something as simple as writing down a list of things you are thankful for at the end of the day can also help people sleep better.
A 2015 study from UC San Diego, which included researcher Deepak Chopra found that gratitude is associated with lower fatigue, better sleep, lower depression, and increased cardiac function.
Listen to the full podcast below for details on gratitude, Ben's journal, and all the biohacking expertise you expect from Mr. Greenfield. We also cover:
- Oxytocin injections
- Red light therapy
- Live O2 Oxygen training for hyper and hypo oxygenation
- Mitochondrial boosting
- Telomere protection
- Ben's Top 3 Tips for Anti-Aging
Or watch the video here and bask in the glow of Ben's red lights: