Apparently, gratitude makes us healthier. It improves our physical health and our psychological health. It helps us be calmer, more empathetic, and feel better about ourselves. It even helps us sleep better.
As it turns out, gratitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indiana University researchers found that people who practice gratitude regularly eventually re-hardwired their brains. The more people practiced gratitude, the more they saw opportunities to be grateful and the more they acted on those opportunities.
“Researchers found that, on average, the more money a participant gave away, and the stronger the feelings of gratitude they reported feeling, the more activity they exhibited in a range of brain areas in the frontal, parietal, and occipital regions.”
Gratitude literally changes our brains. It helps us to be more appreciative and more kind to our fellow humans. Living a life where we regularly practice gratitude actually helps us to see opportunities to be grateful more easily and then to act on those opportunities.
I’m pretty good at pausing and soaking up the moment. My mom has modeled that for us since we were small, forcing Dad to turn the car around and “Go back! Go Back!” when she saw something that we needed to investigate further or pausing to capture every beautiful sunset or sunrise she saw. I do the same with my son. This spring when the frogs started coming to life, the creekbed near our house was filled with passionate and persistent croaks and ribbits. Every time we drove by, we would stop the car, roll down the windows, and listen to the sounds of spring.
While I often stop and enjoy the moments of life, I usually forget to express gratitude for those very same moments that bring me such contentment and peace. Whether it’s thanking God for the beautiful spring that has filled my son with such wonder and curiosity or thanking my husband for folding our son’s laundry instead of leaving it for me, I need to make time to be grateful. We thank God every night in our prayers for all of our blessings by name, but that can feel rote and routine. I want to change my brain to be grateful in the moment. To say thanks for the blessings — great and small — that fill my life. And I want my son to grow up doing the same.
So here begins my journey into being more grateful and gracious. In being more mindful and more meaningful. More intentional. More empathetic. And maybe I’ll even have some of those healthy physical side effects as well!
This is the first post in my 52 Weeks of Gratitude series. I hope you enjoy!