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Wellness Club

The Neuroscience of Gratitude

By @KaylaBarnes


We've heard that practicing gratitude can improve your mood and mindset, but I find it easier to implement wellness practices when they are backed by science.


Gratitude is defined as; the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation and return kindness.


Studies have shown that feelings of gratitude are evoked in the right anterior temporal cortex.


When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. These hormones act as natural antidepressants.


People who feel gratitude also have been shown to have a higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus. Grey matter in the brain serves many functions and is primarily composed of neuronal cell bodies and unmyelinated axons. The grey matter serves to process information in the brain.  


Gratitude also triggers a hypothalamic regulation that promotes deeper sleep and upregulates the immune system by lowering cortisol and boosting IgA. (IgA is antibody blood protein and an essential part of your immune system.)


Gratitude can also release toxic emotions. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is responsible for all emotional experiences. It consists of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, and cingulate gyrus. Studies have shown that the hippocampus and amygdala, the two main sites regulating emotions, memory, and bodily functioning, are upregulated with gratitude.


By consciously practicing gratitude each day, we can help our neural pathways strengthen and foster an ongoing positive mindset within ourselves.


One of my favorite quotes is, "You cannot be grateful and hateful at the same time." You can also think of this as "You cannot be grateful and angry at the same time."


Gratitude is a simple, quick, and free way to improve your mood, sleep, and brain.  I recommend utilizing a gratitude journal or a few simple pieces of paper and stick to a gratitude regimen each morning. Remember that gratitude works best when practiced daily.