This Is Your Brain on . . . Gratitude

This Is Your Brain on . . . Gratitude

January 11, 2018

This Is Your Brain on . . . Gratitude

Dear Diary,

Today I am thankful for . . . 

Those words can change your life, starting with changing your brain. Scientists have known for some time that keeping a “gratitude journal” is good for you. (And here’s a good one you can use online.) Evidence, both anecdotal and from rigorous studies, has been clear about the benefits of being a grateful person.

And now that evidence includes a look inside your brain. Well, not your brain, but the ones of subjects in a research experiment. Researchers found a notable change in the brains of 16 women who wrote daily about gratitude in an online journal, compared to 17 other women who wrote about neutral topics.

Researchers captured the evidence with MRI scans of the women’s brains before and after three weeks of journaling. The scans detected changes in oxygen metabolism in cells in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area deep in the brain.

“When we are counting our blessings, this part of the brain is giving us this neural currency that makes us literally richer,” said research leader Christina Karns.

“Making use of this neural currency, giving is something that is done with a grateful heart, with a feeling of your own abundance for what others have done for you.”

 

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