Gratitude grows

More effective than anti-depressants

Scientific research continues to find convincing support for the benefits of gratitude to health. In a recent brain fMRI imaging study, Prathik Kini and his team from Indiana University recruited 43 subjects suffering from anxiety or depression. They found that months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, brains scans suggest that people were more attuned to feeling thankful. The research report more technically puts it: “there was neural modulation by gratitude in the medial pre-frontal cortex three months later”.

So there is a self-perpetuating nature to gratitude, the more you practice gratitude, the more easily you will feel it.

The warm up

Half the participants (22), spent 20 minutes at three of their regular weekly counselling sessions writing a gratitude letter to someone. The other participants simply attended their usual counselling. Three months after their counselling was complete, they took part in a gratitude task in a brain scanner.

The experiment

In the scanner participants were “given” amounts of money by imaginary benefactors whose names and photos appeared on screen. They were told that their benefactor would appreciate it if they gave some, or all, of the donation to another person (also with photo/name on screen) or to a charity. The participants were told that though this was an exercise, one of the gifts, chosen at random, would actually be given – they would get the gift minus the amount they had gifted.

The more the participants gave away and the more gratitude they felt, the more activity was seen in the frontal, parietal, and occipital regions. The gratitude areas are distinct from those associated with empathy, implying that gratitude is a unique neurological emotion.

Primed for gratitude

The participants who’d written the gratitude letters months earlier, showed more gratitude-related brain activity in the scanner. The researchers described these “profound” neural effects as “particularly noteworthy”. The results suggest that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to gratitude. This “muscle” grows, as you make effort to feel gratitude today, the more the feeling comes spontaneously in the future.

Practising gratitude starts a healthy, positive cycle in your brain – counting your blessings now makes it easier to notice them later. The more good you see in your life, the happier and more successful you’re likely to be.

Try this one at home – three things to be grateful for

One of the simplest and most effective gratitude techniques was originally called the Three Blessings. It’s a simple practice, that can make a marked difference to feelings of happiness.

Before bed each night either write, text, think or say out loud three “thanks”, for things that have happened during the day.

It does not matter whether silly or profound: the sun shone, I finished my project, I watched a great movie, went to bed healthy and not hungry, completed my run or learnt a new gratitude technique! Shawn Achor, Harvard researcher and author says “writing down three things you’re grateful for, every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing,”.

Being grateful can profoundly help improve your mental wellbeing, it’s free, quick, simple and effective. Read how to be even more expansively grateful here.
ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of experience in coaching hundreds of ADHD executives, business professionals and creatives, and previously running a large ADHD support group and an ADHD diagnostic clinic. His business expertise comes from a twenty years career in software, from programming, through marketing, sales and running a few start-ups. His ADHD insight is personal, with decades understanding his own ADHD experience and in bringing up his ADHD daughter. He has published his writing primarily via this website, with interactive ADHD courses in development.


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