Count your blessings  

Living in a state of gratitude can have a huge impact on your life and health. On a chemical/physical level, the expression of gratitude causes the brain to release surges of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which takes immediate effect and elevates us to a cheerier stateThese neurotransmitters play a vital role in various abilities such as experiencing pleasure and the joys of rewardThey help us pay attention as well as assisting with regulating the body’s physical movements. 

Emotional health  

Studies conducted across the past decade have shown that people who live in a state of conscious appreciation, tend to be happier and less depressed. It’s also been shown to be beneficial for people who struggle with mental health issues. 

study was conducted using 293 adults, mostly college students who suffered from clinical depression and anxiety who sought counselling services at their university. Participants were randomly placed into three groups and each received counselling The first group was instructed to write one letter of gratitude to someone each week for three weeks. The second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did no writing activity. 

The group who wrote letters of gratitude reported significantly better mental health when measured at four then 12 weeks after the end of the writing exercise. So, it would seem that practicing gratitude in addition to psychological counselling enhances the benefit. 

Velcro and Teflon 

Another aspect of being consciously grateful is that it distracts us and dislodges our grip on negative emotions; providing a new perspective. Once you develop a regular practice, it’s wired into the brain.  

According to psychologist Rick Hanson, the brain has a negative bias. He says that the mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. If something embarrassing happens, we may dwell on it for weeks or more. It overwhelms us far more than positive experience, and with every experience, our brain’s neural pathways are rewritten. 

Developing that negative bias was an early survival instinct, whereby, our earliest ancestors needed to be on constant alert for environmental dangersHowever, the latest neuroscience findings show us that this negativity bias can be modified because our brains are plastic. Several activities actually thicken the insula, which is the part of the brain that among other things, senses the internal state of the body, and feelings. 

The research demonstrates that when you’re doing focused activities such as meditationpracticing gratitude, or yoga, the insula becomes thicker because the neurons are making more connectionsso people become more in touch with themselves and more empathetic to others. 

A heartfelt practice 

When practiced daily, gratefulness can even have an impact on our physical health. Take heart attacks for instance. University of Connecticut researchers studied people who’d had one heart attack. Those who saw some value in the illness such as causing them to appreciate the value of their life more, had a significantly lower risk of having another heart attack. 

Professor of Psychology, UC Davis, Dr. Robert Emmons has conducted several studies on the effects of gratitude. His findings show that it can strengthen the immune system, enhance brain power and quality of sleep, reduce pain, and improve digestion. 

How to develop a daily gratitude practice  

Challenging events happen all the time, people get sick, they die, there’s grief, pain, war, pandemics and arguments. This is life. We can view life as a series of disasters or we can ‘wire in’ a state of acceptance, and appreciation of the abundance that we already have.   

A simple, daily conscious practice of gratitude can rewrite our neural pathways and create a lasting effect on the way we feel. Just create a gratitude journal and list around 10 things you are grateful for each day. Strengthening these neural pathways makes us more permanently grateful and forward-looking. Feeling the emotion of gratitude as you write each point, will further embed the changeEven easier, simply commit genuinely to starting each day with a grateful heart.   

Gratitude doesn’t mean youre merely appreciative of something that happens now and then. It’s about appreciating every moment like it’s your last because we never know when that moment will be. Where’s the value in life if were always looking towards that next fix; I will be happy when I have enough money, a better house, when I have the right golf clubs. The thing that money can’t buy is another moment.