Dutch & Deckle


A Cup of Gratitude

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”- W.J. Cameron

As we gather together in groups big and small this week, one thing will remain constant.  It won’t be the menus or the rhythm of the day, but most likely, at one point, people will gather together and offer a blessing or thank you for the past year.  This simple act of giving thanks turns out to have enormous power within us. Our brains and scientists are showing that when we regularly practice this moment of gratitude it can have profound neurological effects on our psyches.

How does the act of giving thanks or expressing gratitude work?

Well, it turns out giving thanks translates to acute positivity. In an experiment at the University of California at Los Angeles, an MRI imaged subjects’ brains as they were made to feel gratitude by giving gifts. Their brains showed increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex—regions associated with moral and social cognition, reward, empathy, and value judgment. Researchers concluded that gratitude creates a positive and supportive attitude toward others and a feeling of relief from stressors. Another study found that the brain produces dopamine in response to receiving rewards, which can be associated with the state of being grateful . While you might be simply feeling thankful, your brain is manifesting a beneficial physical response, creating a cycle of positive neurological benefits!

What types of activities are valuable expressions of gratitude?

1. Keeping a gratitude journal.  Different from simple expressive writing, a gratitude journal kept for 5-10 mins per day showed that people who wrote about gratitude experienced a significant decrease in stress and negative emotions compared to the other two groups, and these effects lasted for at least a month after in a study performed by Erin Fekete, of the University of Indianapolis.

2. Having visual reminders of things for which you are grateful.  Keep those photos of happy memories and moments close by and think of them as a gratitude vision board. They will serve to remind you of all that you have to be grateful for.

3. Writing a thank you note. Sharing your gratitude with those you care about can be so powerful.  Not only does it mean so much for the person who will receive it, but it turns out to have benefits even if it is never sent.  Writing a note of gratitude or even a thank you note to at least one person a week helped significantly improve mental health, according to one study of 300 adults.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways you could find to acknowledge and express your gratitude.  Prayer, meditation, reflection, and countless other therapeutic exercises exist to help us access the positive power that lies within all of us. There is a myriad of benefits that occur as a result of the practice of gratitude.  A gratitude practice can improve resiliency and depression, make you more optimistic, and boost patience and self-confidence. It has also been shown to strengthen family, personal, and professional relationships. Gratitude is a powerful emotion with the ability to do greater good for our bodies and our minds.

As the year draws to a close, consider starting a practice of gratitude that will serve to enhance your mental and physical well-being and that of those around you.  Not only the Pilgrims, but almost all world societies had some form of celebration to give thanks for the bounty and blessings throughout the year. Perhaps they knew intuitively what we needed science to tell us, gratitude is good for the body, mind, and soul.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends. The Dutch and Deckle Team is very grateful for you!


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