Being appreciative can bring great emotional and physical benefits. Gratitude can make you both healthier and happier. If practiced regularly it can rewire your brain and change your whole life.
Gratitude is not being thankful that you’re not as badly off as others. It is not an objective comparison but rather the active appreciation of positive aspects of your situation; counting your blessings. It is exercising an optimistic perspective on life and this affects the brain.
Benefits for All
In Psychology Today Alex Korb Ph.D reports that the act of being grateful positively affects the brain. It stimulates the hypothalamus which regulates bodily functions and improves physical health. It also activates the reward centres of the brain promoting a virtuous circle of more gratitude. Being thankful makes you naturally more thankful.
The positive emotions, happy memories and improved self-esteem of giving to others encourage a ‘pay it forward’ attitude that is infectious. This is especially important in the environment of the workplace where increased productivity has been associated with appreciation of staff.
As coaches, we like to promote positive attitudes to life. Tony Robbins has his ten minute morning ritual of appreciation. The secret of the exercise is to enter into the emotion of the appreciation. This is the power that rewires the brain.
Benefits for Couples
For couples who are in a relational rut appreciation can be a great help. In the morning I suggest a personal appreciation exercise – just think of three things that you are grateful for before you get up. This should help promote a positive attitude to the day. Before you go to sleep tell your partner three things you have appreciated about them from the day. Everyone sleeps better feeling good about themselves. Try this for a week and see how it changes the dynamic of your relationship.
When you first try this exercise it can be difficult and seem unreal. This is because we are not used to being positive in our outlook. We are animals subconsciously programmed for survival, scanning the environment for danger. It makes us tend towards suspicion rather than trust, to be pessimistic rather than optimistic. But we are not just animals. We can consciously take control of much of our lives, especially our outlook. We can create an attitude of gratitude. It can be like drawing the curtains in a darkened room and the outlook suddenly looks bigger and brighter.
It seems that we are physically and emotionally designed to live in an appreciative attitude to life; it’s God’s will for us.