Addicted to Gratitude

November 22, 2016
Reading time: 3 minutes


Thanksgiving is a time that many of us, myself included, look forward to all year. Spending time with our family and loved ones, hosting in our own home or getting to visit others’ homes. We share recipes, cooking our favorite dishes for our guests, recreating our childhood memories with our children. We share stories and laughs and, although we all enjoy cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner, it’s the togetherness that makes this day truly special. Giving thanks feels so wonderful and it is so easy to do on this day, surrounded by loved ones and delicious food. If only it was this easy to feel gratitude every day…


The truth is, that amount of gratitude is possible, and available to us, in every single moment no matter the picture. I’m sure you’re thinking this is the part where I talk about making a gratitude list or keeping a journal of things to be thankful for and, while both of those things are fantastic ideas, sometimes they feel like… work. And as we all know, feelings of ‘work’ rarely inspire feelings of gratitude. Instead, I would like to soften our ideas of what it means to cultivate gratitude by sharing a study about exactly what happens to your brain when it feels ‘grateful’.


This study was conducted by the NIH (National Institute of Health) and it’s purpose was to see what happens to your brain ‘on gratitude’. NIH researchers examined blood flow to various parts of the brain while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude (Zahn et al, 2009). One of the many positive things that they found was that these feelings activated regions in the brain associated with Dopamine. Dopamine is considered the “reward” chemical because it feels good, but it is also incites action, meaning that when we feel grateful, our brain will look for more ways to bring about that feeling.


Simply put, gratitude engages a virtuous cycle in your brain. All you have to do is start the day, or present moment, by focusing on one thing to be grateful for and your brain will involuntarily keep looking for more things to be grateful for.


Kabbalists teach that one of the biggest mistakes every one of us makes consistently is that we don’t have awareness or an appreciation of who we are, and our potential power. This power can be accessed so quickly through gratitude. After all, gratitude is one of the rare human experiences that brings about nothing but positivity which is further evidenced by what it does to your brain. The best part is: there is no wrong way to be grateful.


If keeping gratitude lists brings you a sense of obligation, start by just observing something immediately around you to be thankful for.  If your gratitude journal has been collecting dust on your nightstand, give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life that keep you busy.


You can do it as you commute to work, I’m so grateful for my car and the ability to drive.


You can do while you wait in line for coffee, I am so grateful that this shop is so convenient and that everyone here is always so nice.


You can do it while you send an email, I am so grateful for the magic that is the internet.


You can do it while you’re doing nothing, I am so grateful for my amazing family, my breathing lungs, for my mind, for my consciousness…


Gratitude doesn’t need to be “right” or “organized” to be practiced fully every day. All it takes is stopping for a moment, noticing one thing that brings about gratitude, and watching as your brain finds more and more things to celebrate. As you do, and you activate a virtuous cycle in your brain, you not only increase your gratitude, you elevate your consciousness right along with it.


It is clear that all of us, to greater and lesser degrees, fail at having a consistent and true appreciation for our gifts, inner and outer. We think that we practice gratitude but when we’re truly grateful, we take it to another level. Our gratitude begins to transcend the physical world and we open ourselves up to an even deeper perspective. One of overwhelming gratitude for simply being alive, for being granted another day on this earth, another opportunity to experience this planet, and to share of ourselves in a way that brings Light to the world.


This Thanksgiving, don’t strive and stress about making sure to be grateful in the ‘proper’ way. Just look for one thing and allow your brain to assist you in finding more and more ways to give thanks.


Thought Into Action

Take a moment right now and find something to be grateful. Say it out loud and let yourself feel all the way into that gratitude. Do this several times throughout the day for a week and notice how your outlook has changed.


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