This is Your Brain on Gratitude

This is Your Brain on Gratitude

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The long lasting psychological benefits of being sweet, not salty

Never mind the Law of Attraction or the simplicity of the saying, “Do good, feel good.” As it turns out, the benefits of gratitude have been backed by science.

A 2015 study on the neurological effects of conscious gratitude involved psychotherapy patients suffering from anxiety and/or depression. They were asked to regularly write letters expressing thankfulness and then “Pay it Forward” three months later by hypothetically donating a monetary gift based on their level of gratitude for said gift. Compared to the control group who did not practice gratitude, the letter-writers were found to have a higher and longer lasting neural sensitivity to gratitude. Further, brain scans revealed the activity patterns were unrelated to other feelings like empathy.

Researchers found that gratitude is its own emotion and that the more one flexes the proverbial muscle, the more grateful they become. In short, you can actually train your brain to be thankful — a habit which has incredible psychological benefits like reducing anxiety and depression, regulating stress, and improving sleep. Gratitude can also strengthen your relationships with others. When you express gratitude toward a specific person, you activate your brain’s reward center meaning you create a desire to feel that way again and again.

How to Express Gratitude

There are endless ways to count your blessings — especially when those blessings are people. Here are a few ways to tap into the pleasure centers of your brain and uplift others in the process.

1. Write a love letter. Platonic or romantic — just write! Using specific examples, explain why the recipient means so much to you. If you can’t go old school with a pen and paper, go mobile. Send a friend an email to let them know you’re thinking about them. Have even less time? Send a bitmo. Within seconds, your recipient will receive a mobile gift card with a personalized message.

2. Give the gift of time. It’s no coincidence today’s topic coincides with the National Day of Unplugging. With so many ways to connect online, to give someone your company and undivided attention in real life is to show them your appreciation. Pick up the phone and set a date to take a stroll through your neighborhood. Invite your sister over for dinner. Connection doesn’t have to cost money.

3. Complete an act of service. Giving a material gift is a nice gesture, but going out of your way to take care of someone is often more meaningful in the long run. Live with the folks or roommates? Do more chores than are usually expected of you. Significant other? Wash the car or run an errand you know they dread. There are thousands of ways to show your gratitude — make it unique to the receiver.

Bitmo is a fintech startup based out of San Diego. If we can’t be gratitude pros with 365 days of sun and surf, no one can. Follow us for more tips on how to connect both on and offline.