Your brain on gratitude: the perks of brazen thankfulness
“Gratitude is some seriously powerful stuff.”
I just returned from the Cook Islands, a tiny nation of 15 spits of land, surrounded by millions of miles of ocean.
The 15,000 or so people who live in the Cooks rightfully believe they are blessed, that God has given them everything they could possibly need.
It’s an attitude that can’t help but provide. When someone shows up on this planet with a grateful heart and eyes seeking only things for which to be thankful, that’s exactly what they’ll find. Abundance aplenty.
Cook Islanders don’t need researchers to tell them that their feelings of thankfulness have a direct and beneficial effect on their brains, a finding scientists are reporting from labs all over Western universities.
By naturally focusing on positives, on how lucky and blessed they are living in these beautiful South Pacific islands, they’re rewarded with neurotransmitters like dopamine and other feel-good chemicals that form neural patterns of happiness. Their unending gratitude literally sculpts their brains which in turn increases their enthusiasm and energy and lowers their stress.
Consequently, their neural pathways are markedly different than those of us in the West that are conditioned to shine our spotlights on what we resent or regret or what we think is “wrong with the world.”
Renee Jain, a coach of positive psychology, says most Westerners have a negativity bias where “bad stuff” outweighs the good 3:1. Think of all the good drugs (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin) we’re missing out on by our bitching.
That’s why my mission in life is to be like the Cook Islanders, to focus only on the supreme beneficence of the universe.
I consciously choose to believe such thoughts as:
Life is freaking awesome.
The universe is bounteous and forever generous.
Something amazing is bound to happen to me today.
Today, I say thank you for all the blessings that are barreling my way, all the abundance, the joy, the peace of mind that I count on day after day. To my way of thinking, responding to any other reality is simply irresponsible.
So tell me … what are you grateful for?