How Being Grateful Improves Your Mental and Physical Health
Showing gratitude is one of the golden rules that guide us on how to treat others. From a young age, we were taught to be thankful to people who do good deeds to us. Being grateful helps build good relationships with the people around us and positively impact one's mental health.
Being thankful is not taxing, but the results can be significant if consistently practiced. Grateful people are more energetic and enthusiastic in what they do. Studies have shown that people who often show gratitude are happier and less depressed. To know more about the psychological benefits of gratitude, let's dig deep.
Being grateful is a natural antidepressant. Most people who have depression are placed on medication to relieve the symptoms. But did you know that being grateful can have similar effects in relieving symptoms of depression as the medications? Showing gratitude to the people around us frequently can improve one's emotions.
Human emotions are influenced by neurotransmitters. The common neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation are dopamine and serotonin. These are the neurotransmitters that make one feel happy when one shows gratitude. People who regularly show gratefulness have strong neural pathways.
How Being Thankful Rewires Your Brain
- Releasing Toxic Emotions
By practicing gratitude, we activate parts of our brain called the hippocampus and amygdala. These two sites work in tandem to generate emotions. When one shows appreciation, the brain releases hormones that improve the mood, cutting down on anxiety and stress-causing hormones.
- Pain Reduction
It may sound unbelievable, but gratitude also reduces pain. People suffering from chronic pain may fail to heal because they see only the negative side of everything. Negativity impairs the healing process. Changing your perspective on how you see things and becoming positive-minded can cause a reduction in pain symptoms. People who are positive despite being in pain heal faster.
- Improvements in Sleep Quality
The part in your brain called hypothalamus also comes into play when one shows gratitude. The hypothalamus is responsible for many things, and among them is sleep cycles. Activating the hypothalamus by being grateful therefore makes one sleep better.
- Stress Regulation
Gratitude is also a tool for reducing stress. This is because showing appreciation leads to a reduction in cortisol release. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Using appreciation to cope with stress leads to a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Therefore, practice showing appreciation if you want to live a less stressful life.
How to Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a skill. Therefore, to perfect it, you need to practice. Here are some ways to practice gratitude:
- Appreciate the deeds of your friends, colleagues, neighbours, or family members
- Write a thank you letter or note and send it to someone to show you recognize what they did to you
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Meditate regularly
- Think positive things about yourself
- Try to think positive also when something bad happens
The Family Centre’s resources:
We offer classes, therapy groups, and counselling that may help you in improve your mental and physical health.
For mental health advice, click here.
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Written by Holly Shaw
Holly has been working in the care industry for 5+ years. She regularly blogs about both the personal and practical challenges of caring and is always actively working on producing informative content. Holly is currently writing for Firstcare.