More than something nice to do, the practice of gratitude can change the shape of our brains – with startling results. Kirsty Norton explains how.
1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Some folk pass gratitude off as something ‘nice to do but a bit wishy washy’. In fact, there is a science behind it and it turns out it’s very effective. The benefits are noteable and regular practice changes the shape of your brain as described here.
One of the most popular ways is to keep a daily gratitude journal – simple and easy to do with startling results.
When I started delving into this subject many years ago, I was struck by how changing our dialogue can have such an effect on us. Did you know that regular practice can bring a stronger immune system, help you sleep better, bring more joy and pleasure and make you more helpful and compassionate.
Gratitude and Yoga
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the main message is that we need to learn to control the fluctuations of our mind. Sri Pattabi Jois taught that there are six poisons that dim our light. They are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy and sloth.
Gratitude is a great way to change your focus so that you are more loving, more awake and more compassionate – these in turn work to remove these poisons. I’m not saying gratitude is the be all and end all but from the research I’ve done, I’d say it goes a long way towards a better and healthier life.
Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret—emotions that can destroy our happiness. There’s even recent evidence, including a study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showing that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
I’ve already mentioned journalling, another way to do it is with a partner, friend or child. At the end of every day, you choose three things you are grateful for in that day. This is a sweet way to bond with those close to you.
If this is a subject you are drawn to, I invite you to read anything by David Hamilton PHD, a scientist who has done studies into the brain and how it changes depending on our thoughts/behaviours – it’s enlightening.
Ill leave you with this thought “Scientific evidence has proven that kindness changes the brain, impacts the heart and immune system, and may even be an antidote to depression” David Hamilton PHD.
This post was written by Kirsty Norton. Kirsty started practicing over 20 years ago. Svadhyaya, the practice of self-study, has taught her that in every moment, we choose our inner state. She brings this teaching into her classes to empower her students. Her aim is to design her state, be well-rested, work hard, remain always a student, stay vulnerable and lead by example. Kirsty is a proud ambassador for Wellicious and has been published in Yoga Magazine and Elephant Journal. Find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.