It might sound a little “out there”, but practising gratitude or being thankful for the good things in your life can have a huge positive effect on your mental well-being.
It can be as simple as thinking about how thankful you are to be physically healthy in these difficult times, to thinking about the things that directly impact your current circumstances that bring you happiness or joy.
Simply put, it makes you happy.
Scientific studies over the last 30 years show that those who practise gratitude show increased mental and physical well-being.
Dive into the dopamine
Acts of kindness and feelings of gratitude engage the hypothalamus where the well-known “pleasure center” of the brain is located, as well as regulating bodily functions like appetite, metabolism, growth and sleep. This “pleasure center” releases a chemical called dopamine, the same chemical that makes us feel good after eating something delicious, performing exercise or sexual intercourse. Therefore, simply being grateful can give you the same “rush” of dopamine by simply practising gratitude.
Sleep well, really well
A lot of us suffer from poor sleep quality which directly influences other aspects of our lives. In fact, experiments have shown that a human being operating on less than five hours of sleep has a similar cognitive function as someone who’s had several alcoholic drinks. Because the hypothalamus is where sleep is controlled, practising gratitude can activate similar feelings and help us fall into a healthy, deep sleep.
The domino effect
By engaging our hypothalamus directly, we get more than good sleep and a dopamine rush. Practising gratitude helps cut back on stress, thereby increasing overall happiness. Studies have shown that performing simple gratitude practises like sending thank you notes and keeping a gratitude journal reduces clinical anxiety and depression.
The “domino effect” doesn’t stop there, because practising gratitude has a direct impact on your physical well-being too. Increased energy levels, a stronger immune system and generally improved physical health are direct side effects of regular thankfulness.
Mental health is one of the great challenges of modern life. Talk to your doctor: You can speak to your GP about your feelings of depression and they will direct you to the necessary channels to get the assistance you need.