How does this all work? One study suggests that regularly expressing gratitude improves mental health outcomes because it shifts our mindset away from ruminating, negative thoughts and emotions. Interestingly, these positive effects occur even when the letters of gratitude are never shared with others. Three months later, participants had their brain activity measured by an fMRI scanner, and gratitude letter writers were found to have increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for learning and decision making. This study suggests that expressing gratitude might have long-term positive effects on the brain.
Harvard Medical School recommends trying some of the following activities to experience the positive effects of expressing gratitude:
- Write a thank-you note, expressing appreciation to someone important in your life.
- Thank someone mentally. You don’t have to tell them, but it wouldn’t hurt.
- Count your blessings by keeping a gratitude journal.
By: Jim Rowell
Social Work Intern