During the holiday season, you may be wishing that you felt more gratitude and less stress. The good news is that you can decide to look for things to feel thankful about and your brain will reap the rewards. According to the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles, focusing on gratitude instead of the negativity in the world or the stress in your life changes the brain’s molecular structure. It also keeps its gray matter healthy, which leads to more happiness and life satisfaction.
Gratitude Gives Us a Natural High
Even when reading about how gratitude physically changes the brain, it may be difficult to understand how it happens. When you choose an attitude of gratitude or to do an act of kindness for someone else, a chemical called dopamine floods the brain and promotes warm, positive feelings. This can quickly become addictive in a good way. It motivates people to continue to focus on the positive in life and to try to help others.
You may notice this type of pleasant sensation during the holiday season when you participate in a charitable event. However, you don’t have to limit your acts of altruism to November or December. It is possible to capture this pleasurable feeling from dopamine by remaining outward-focused all year long.
Improve Your Physical and Mental Health by Staying Grateful
Most people get the blues, feel anxious or get into cycles of negative thinking at some point. If it has not reached the point of a psychiatric disorder that requires medical intervention, the decision to practice gratitude can help people have greater levels of personal satisfaction and well-being. Along with acts of kindness, the decision to practice everyday thankfulness can have a significant impact on creating positive emotions. You can do this in whatever way works best for you such as keeping a gratitude journal or showing thankfulness for your present circumstances by helping people who struggle in ways that you once did.
People who practice gratitude also tend to have fewer aches and pains than those who give in to complaining more frequently. They also tend to be better advocates for their own health, which means they seek help sooner and don’t get as sick. High levels of dopamine in the brain lead to greater mental and physical resiliency as well. That means positive people are less likely to become sick in the first place and have an easier time dealing with the stressors of life.
Capital City Neurosurgery is Grateful for You
Dr. Kelly Kiehn and his staff are grateful to all those who have entrusted us as patients and for those still out there who need our help. You don’t have to continue to suffer from chronic back or neck pain. Call us today at 614-442-0700 to learn more about our minimally invasive surgical options for pain management.