How Gratitude Affects The Human Heart & Rewires Your Brain

That got me right in the heart. My heart is full. I just felt in my heart that it wasn’t right…

More than just words, there’s actual evidence that we feel things in our heart – particularly when it comes to gratitude!

Today I want to tell you about the fact that gratitude can literally change your brain, and that it’s usually our heart sending signals to our brain instead of the other way around. The people who choose to write letters of gratitude every single day have been found to have significantly better mental health, even up to 12 weeks after they stop doing it 😱

Our society tends to feed us the subliminal message that we need to buy more things in order to be happy, which can breed an insatiable desire to buy more and more things in the hope that one day we’ll have enough to feel grateful for (if this sounds like you, then read Declutter, Destress, Buy Less on Kindle). So, if gratitude isn’t your go-to emotion then you can be forgiven – and you’re definitely not alone!

Gratitude is totally subjective and the very same thing has the power to make one person feel like they have everything and another feel like they have nothing. And that’s because it’s never really about the item in question at all – it’s all about how we perceive it in our brain. Some research from UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Centre said this:

Having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. Now that’s a really cool way of taking care of your well-being.

It’s no secret that intentional gratitude practice, such as writing down 3 things you’re grateful for each morning, has the power to start changing your mood. If you’re someone who already has a regular gratitude practice, then hopefully you’ve noticed some of the benefits. And if you keep your gratitude journal private like I do, then you’ll also know that there’s no need to share the things that you’re grateful for with anyone else in order to start feeling better.

The benefits of gratitude practice grow over time, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t wake up feeling like a different person after the first few days – it will take a little bit of time before the neurological effects of gratitude changing your brain start to show (ref). With each additional day that you feel grateful, you are rewiring your brain to search for the positives rather than the negatives in your life.

There are countless studies on the benefits of gratitude and they all point to the same fact: gratitude is good for you. Really, really good for you. Robert A. Emmons at the University of California and Mike McCullough at the University of Miami ran a gratitude study which involved splitting their study candidates into 3 groups. The first group had to keep a journal of things they were grateful for, while the second had to journal what was hassling them, and the final group had to write a neutral account of what had happened that week. After 10 weeks of doing this, the grateful group reported feeling 25% better than the others, and had done 1.5 hours more exercise (ref).

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There are so many ways that we can access these benefits, including:

  • 🙏🏽  Writing in a gratitude journal
  • 🙏🏽  Saying thank you and expressing how much we appreciate our loved ones
  • 🙏🏽  Noticing what we’re grateful for throughout the day as good things happen to us

Now, About That Heart Of Yours…

At the Institute of HeartMath, a group of experts across multiple fields from cardiology to psychology found that it’s our heart which feels these positive emotions like joy and gratitude; and THEN tells our brain about it. Not vice versa. For those of us who aren’t working at the cutting edge of science, it’s most likely that you’re used to the idea of the brain doing all the thinking – but we really are feeling joy in our physical heart!

When we’re full of positive emotions such as love and gratitude for our life, our heart beat changes as if it’s typing out a love note to the brain. Fun fact: the heart creates the largest electromagnetic field in our whole body. It’s no surprise, then, that as I always say – your heart centre is your manifestation station! There are 4 ways that our heart communicates with the rest of our body and it’s via the nervous system, pulse waves, hormones and electromagnetic fields.

HeartMath research has demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity (which accompany different emotional states) have distinct effects on cognitive and emotional function. During stress and negative emotions, when the heart rhythm pattern is erratic and disordered, the corresponding pattern of neural signals traveling from the heart to the brain inhibits higher cognitive function. This limits our ability to think clearly, remember, learn, reason, and make effective decisions. In contrast, the more ordered and stable pattern of the heart’s input to the brain during positive emotional states has the opposite effect. It facilitates cognitive function and reinforces positive feelings and emotional stability… – HeartMath.org

Our body is our best intuitive device for giving and receiving messages to our brain, the people we love and the Universe. When you make the decision to start rewiring your brain with gratitude, it’s a decision which will have a lasting effect on your neurological wiring and can improve your whole experience of the world – which is all there really is because your experience is unique to you.

Living a heart-led life is so important for our happiness and wellbeing which is why at Millennial Manifestor I always say it’s one of the 3 pillars of successful manifesting – live in your purpose, follow your heart, and then manifest with joy and ease.

Choosing to find what we love in our life instead of what we’d like to change will always lead to success – whatever the outcome – because we’ll find that the joy of gratitude can never be changed by our external circumstances. Start small, start now and just think to yourself –

What do I have to be grateful for…?

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