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
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
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
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
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
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?
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?