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Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic

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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Giving thanks may make your brain more altruistic

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

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

Experiential consumption

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

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Appreciate everything

The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.

Find gratitude in your challenges

Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. Sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.

Dig a little deeper into some of your own past experiences and try to figure out how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.

Practice mindfulness

Sit down daily and think through five to ten things you are grateful for. 

Picture it in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude in your body. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful, and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.

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Gratitude meaning

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. 

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently assoc...

Write a thank-you note

You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. 

Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. 

Thank someone mentally

No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank the individual.

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Dopamine
Dopamine

Dopamine plays many roles in the brain. It is related to movement, motivation, and reinforcement of behavior.

Dopamine appears to exert significant effects in two regions of the brain...

Tracking dopamine

Dopamine, like other neurotransmitters, helps neurons communicate with each other over short distances. Most of the brain's dopamine is produced in the midbrain by neurons that connect to the striatum.

High dopamine concentrations do not make the neurons more active. However, they do make the neurons remain active for a more extended period of time, suggesting a longer response to the reward. It may have something to do with how dopamine promotes learning, which is one of its main functions.

Long-range effects

Researchers set out to determine if dopamine might affect more distant locations in the brain.

The regions that showed the most significant surges in activity in response to dopamine were the motor cortex and the insular cortex. The findings can help researchers understand the effects of dopamine in the human brain, including its roles in addiction and learning.

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.

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Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts
Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts

Listen to your thoughts — but don’t necessarily believe them.

They're suggestions, possibilities. But they’re not gospel. You can’t control what thoughts pop up, but y...

Identifying Unhelpful Thoughts
  • Black and White Thinking: There are heaping piles of nuance to most things.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Cynicism is bad, but a little skepticism is essential.
  • Selective Attention: If your brain is always looking for the negative, you’re gonna find it.
  • Disqualifying the Positive: Sometimes we go into problem-solving mode and focus only on what is broken.
  • Predicting the Future: “This will never work” or “They’re going to think I’m stupid.” You don’t know the future. So don’t act like it.
  • “Should” thoughts: It’s usually just an insistence that the world bends to your will and is a great way to amplify frustration.
Do More Stuff

Doing little positive things is better for happiness than occasionally bagging an elephant:

  • Enjoyable stuff
  • Achievement stuff: Defeat your goals in single combat and feel like a conquering hero
  • Meaningful stuff: Do volunteer work or just help someone
  • Physical stuff: Exercise. Not only keeps you alive, but it’s like miracle grow for your brain
  • Social stuff.

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Altering the brain
Altering the brain

In 2005, studies began to point out that meditation can change the structure of your brain by thickening the cortex. The cortex controls your attention and emotions.

You can reap the benef...

Mindfulness meditation

It typically refers to a practice for training your attention. It is an awareness that comes through paying attention in the moment, but non-judgmentally.

It involves sitting down with closed eyes and focussing on feeling your breath go in and out. When your attention starts to wander, you take note and bring your attention back to your breath.

Reduced amygdala activity

Meditation shows reduced activity in the amygdala, our brain’s threat detector. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it sets off the fight-flight-freeze response.

In a study, after practicing mindfulness for 20 minutes per day over just one week, participants showed reduced amygdala reactivity only while they were engaged in mindfulness, suggesting they need regular practice.

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Exercise Benefits The Brain

Any kind of exercise, be it aerobic, walking or Yoga, changes the brain's composition, structure and the way it operates. The changes that happen to the brain:

  • Brain wa...
Brain Waves increasing

The brain's electric impulses change, and the Beta waves increase during and after exercise, putting it in a better, more alert state.

More Sensitive To The World

Exercise makes our senses sharper and clearer, and we are more perceptive and have better sensitivity to our surroundings.

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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.

Keeping Your Brain Healthy
Keeping Your Brain Healthy
  • We can improve every aspect of our lives by keeping our most vital organ, our brain, healthy.
  • Exercise is not only good for your body but helps your brain by enhancing many brain s...
Tea and Brain Health

Drinking tea is good for the brain, helping regulate the age-related decline. It also strengthens the brain connections, the neural network inside the brain, making information processing more efficient.

Even coffee is said to be good to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Better Heart = Better Brain

Anything that is bad for the heart is bad for the brain, including smoking cigarettes, or having a sedentary lifestyle, or having diabetes.

Your blood sugar, body mass index, diet and blood pressure all contribute to the health of your heart, and your brain.

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Count your blessings

Spend 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each day writing in detail about three things that went well that day, large or small, and also describing why you think they happened.

Mental subtraction

You don’t know what you’ve got till its gone. 

Consider the many ways in which important, positive events in your life—such as a job opportunity or educational achievement—could have never taken place, and then reflecting on what your life would be like without them.

Savor

We have a tendency to adapt to pleasurable things—a phenomenon called “hedonic adaptation”—and appreciate them less and less over time. 

We can interrupt this process by trying the Give it Up practice, which requires temporarily giving up pleasurable activities and then coming back to them later, this time with greater anticipation and excitement.

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