In Canada, we are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend. Instead of just filling your belly with yummy comfort food and napping, this is a great opportunity to take a moment and also feed your brain. Fill it with alternative ways of thinking that promote wellbeing and can reduce symptoms of depression while you are at it. Build, develop and foster some gratitude neural pathways in your brain!
Here is the science…
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
Check out this video where Dr. Emmons reveals the power that gratitude has to transform our lives and offers tips for cultivating it.
Ok, I can feel you slipping into a deep turkey coma because you are not completely convinced as to the value of thinking in a grateful way. Well…
Ok, you asked for it!
I will now have to get all PsychNerdy on y’all!
Dr. Norman Doidge, a Toronto Psychiatrist, has done some pretty extensive research on brain function, particularly in the area of Neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. All you need to do is exercise your brain in the right direction. He says that neutrons that “fire together, wire together”.
So if you are participating in Thanksgiving family activities and all you can think about is what is crappy about the situation, the neutrons firing for “Thanksgiving” are wiring with”crappy”. Wouldn’t it be better to change your perspective to “what is going well?”, “what am I grateful for?” or “I am so lucky to have [fill in your blank]”?. This way the next time you see a turkey you will associate it with good things 🙂
Gratitude Fostering Strategies
- Perspective Shaping: Start with reading this amazing list of questions”50 Questions That Will Help You Feel Grateful and Good About Life” that will get that sluggish brain ticking along a gratitude path.
- Reframing: Consciously reframe something that you initially perceived as negative into an opportunity to be grateful. Come on, try it! Find that silver lining. Notice how you feel when you think the negative thought and notice how you feel when you shift over to the positive.
- Curb the Urge: Try catching yourself every time you are about to complain about something and then W.A.I.T! Stop and ask yourself “Why Am I Talking”? Ask yourself “Can I say nothing?” or “Can I say something positive instead?”
- Gratitude Letter: This is not the same as a “thank you note,” a Gratitude Letter gives you an opportunity to examine the happiness and meaning that you get from a relationship in your life, write it down, and share it with that significant person. The cool thing here is that it’s not only a gift to the recipient, it’s a gift to yourself. The process of pondering and realizing the good things in that relationship and the positive impact in your life is so beneficial for your wellbeing. Check this out and get started -> Gratitude Letter Ideas.
All you programmers and coders out there are well aware of the following phrase:
“Garbage in-Garbage Out”
This works the same for your brain. Feed it well…
Come on, shake yourself out of that turkey stupor and try feeding your brain some gratitude and start feeling better in your life. Show up, lean in and create the life that you want. Be grateful that you can change your brain! #NeuralPlasticity It is up to you!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING from CANADA!
Dr. Heather Drummond, C.Psych.
Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through
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This was very informative and inspirational. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much Myles! I really appreciate your kind words 🙂