Gratitude and Brain Health


With Thanksgiving this week in the US, it is generally a time of reflecting on those things in our life we are most grateful and thankful for. The holidays can also be a challenging time, especially when a diagnosis of Dementia is in the mix. Since founding the Center, I have been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve clients through our Enhance Protocol and give them back that precious quality time with family that we so cherish around the holidays.


Oftentimes, when we are feeling challenged, or stressed it can be difficult to focus on the things in our life that spark joy, and sometimes just the smallest act of reflecting can help us remember the good surrounding us.


How does gratitude benefit brain health? In a study published in Psychotherapy Research, 300 people participated in a gratitude experiment to see how gratitude affected the brain.


The study entailed:

-Lasting 3 weeks

- 3 randomly assigned groups all receiving counseling services:

1. The first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week.

2. The second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences.

3. The third group did not do any writing activity.


Using an fMRI scanner they found that across the participants:

- When people felt more grateful, their brain activity was distinct from brain activity related to guilt and the desire to help a cause.


- Showed greater neural sensitivity in the brain areas associated with learning and decision making.


-This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.


- The gratitude letter writers showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex when they experienced gratitude in the fMRI scanner.


- This indicates that simply expressing gratitude may have lasting effects on the brain.


- This finding suggests that practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved brain health over time.


Reflective gratitude can be done in many ways. Utilize a gratitude stone where you rub it in the morning and think of one thing you are grateful for everyday. A gratitude journal is another excellent way, and they even make journals with prompts that help you look back on your day and realize what you might have been overlooking.


Can you let us know in the comments either one thing you are #grateful for, or one way you are going to try to express gratitude in your life?

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