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: Gratitude: How It Affects Your Brain and Heart

Gratitude: How It Affects Your Brain and Heart

Global Content Strategist

Cultivating gratitude is part of my daily routine. I feel truly fortunate for all the wonderful moments and people in my life. There are many ways of cultivating gratitude-quick and easy ways that I described in a December 2014 blog post, "Three Ways of Cultivating Gratitude." Today, I want to dig a little deeper and examine gratitude and its health benefits.

Our brain

There is increased interest among neuroscientists in studying how gratitude-which can be considered a scientifically nebulous social construct-is reflected in the folds and synapses of the brain. A growing body of brain imaging can be considered as evidence that when one is feeling grateful, the brain's " reward center" lights up. This is important, as this is the same neural circuit that affects primal drives, such as feeding. Hence, it is ultimately essential to our survival.




While gratitude enhances our sense of survival, it also opens us up to more positive social encounters. "In studies, after eight weeks of practice, brain scans of individuals who practice gratitude have stronger brain structure for social cognition and empathy," said Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the science director of the Greater Good Science Center.

When we cultivate gratitude, we are more able to manage a variety of negative emotions. For instance, gratitude may reduce envy, resentment, and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, suggests, through multiple studies, that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

Our heart

Brain scans and research studies suggest also suggest that gratitude demonstrates itself physically by changing the brain's structure and thus changing our internal and external experiences. In addition to our brains, gratitude does wonders for our hearts.

Heart 1


Our hearts have an electromagnetic field, which extends up to five feet from the body. We can conclude that when people feel positive and optimistic, the heart's waves become smoother and more consistent. On the other hand, when we feel anxious, the waves tend to be shorter and less organized. Ultimately, gratitude affects the heart's rhythm.

Furthermore, the University of California studies conclude " more gratitude was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health." Amazing, right?


Heart 2


Cultivating gratitude is a skill. As with any skill, it can be improved over time. The good news is that we all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Now that you know of its wonderful benefits on the brain and heart, will you make strengthening gratitude part of your daily routine? Are you ready to improve satisfaction with your life?





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