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Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/11/27/20983850/gratitude-altruism-charity-generosity-neuroscience

vox.com

Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic
Finding the best ways to do good. Made possible by The Rockefeller Foundation. Over Thanksgiving, in between mouthfuls of turkey and sweet potato pie, many of us will be asking ourselves: What are we grateful for? Taking a moment to practice gratitude like this isn't an empty holiday tradition.

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Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is good for our mental and physical health.

Several scientific studies show that there is a deep neural connection between gratitude and giving. When we're grateful, our brains become more charitable.

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Gratitude journaling

The practice involves writing down things for which you are grateful. Researchers say it is more impactful to write in detail about one particular thing than to jot down a superficial list of things.

Writing once or twice a week is better for your well-being than doing it every day. It is because we adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we always focus on them.

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Gratitude letters and visits

Write a letter of gratitude to someone, even if you never send the message. The positive effects this has on the brain can last for months.

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Experiential consumption

Spend your money on experiences, not things. Instead of buying something special, consider making it an experience.

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Gratitude raises our happiness

Gratitude raises our happiness

We don't have to feel grateful in order to give thanks. Acting grateful can make you grateful.

For many people, gratitude is difficult because life feels difficult. But we don't...

Research on gratitude

Studies consistently show that the people practicing gratitude enjoy significantly greater life satisfaction than those who don't.

One explanation is that acting happy, regardless of feelings, encourages the brain into processing positive emotions. Gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a part that regulates stress), and the ventral tegmental area (a part that produces the sensation of pleasure.)

Strategies for practicing gratitude

  • Start with interior gratitude - giving thanks privately. Then move to exterior gratitude, which focuses on public expression.
  • Regularly express gratitude in letters to loved ones and colleagues, thanking them for what they do.
  • Be grateful for the little things you experience, the smell of fall in the air, a song that brings back good memories.

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Get Back to Being Happy

Our brain is tricky, and there are subtle ways to get it to be less depressed or anxious. If we are constantly feeling guilty, shameful or even worry a lot, the brain wants to continue that activit...

Label Those Culprits

If there is a negative emotion, like anger, sadness, or stress, keeping it vague makes it affect everything around you.

If you name or label the emotion and use a symbolic metaphor to describe it, then its negative effect is diluted.

Decide and Take Action

If you are constantly worried and anxious while making no decision on your problem, you will remain in a state of turmoil internally.

Taking a decision, even if it is not a perfect one, will provide closure to your mind and you will feel less stressed.

Gratitude shifts your mindset

  • When you’re stuck in a problem mentality you miss out on all the opportunities for solutions that are knocking on your door every day, simply because you don’t even hear them or see them...

Gratitude creates solutions

Adopting a gratitude practice takes you out of the problem and toward a solution. 

It removes you from complaining mode and into a best-outcomes mindset. 

Gratitude is contagious

Watch your words. What you say is usually how you act, so be aware of complaining and replace whines with positive words. Start with you, be the change and watch as the world changes around you and your gratitude practice.