The Power of a Grateful Heart
Gratitude is often overlooked in today’s hurried world. More than an obligatory “thank you,” gratitude can be as simple as noticing the goodness in the world around us and the people in our lives. Like that nice man who held the door for you at the coffee shop this morning. And the more space in our mind and heart that we allow gratitude to take up, the less space for those minor annoyances throughout the day.
Research tells us gratitude can improve general well-being, increase resilience, strengthen our relationships, reduce stress, and fight depression. When the brain feels gratitude, it activates the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain engage feelings of reward (the reward when stress is removed), morality, personal relationships, and positive social interactions. They also enhance our ability to empathize with other people and understand what they’re thinking or feeling.
Gratitude also can increase important neurochemicals. When our thinking shifts from negative to positive, we get a blast of feel-good chemicals, including dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. These lead us to feelings of closeness, connection, and happiness that accompany gratitude.