Every thought we have creates a corresponding chemical response in our brains. For example, if you have a sad thought you get a drip of “sad chemical;” if you have an angry thought, you get a drip of “angry chemical.” Eventually these little drips of chemical build up and are experienced as “feelings.” Therefore, I’m going to conclude that if you want to feel grateful, then you should have lots of thankful thoughts. Even better, you should express lots of thankful thoughts.
“Practicing Gratefulness” is a pretty common suggestion for those in recovery. Many people are given assignments to write down a list of things they are grateful for each day. Research shows that doing this regularly, can be just as effective as taking an antidepressant.
Making a list of things for which you are thankful, will most definitely create positive change in your brain. But if you express it, then you will get a much more powerful effect. Here’s why.
Saying things out loud intensifies the effect on our brains, making it “more real.” Additionally, if you express thankfulness to another person, you will increase positive feelings in both people’s brains. This will help support connection, which triggers a release of serotonin and oxytocin. These two chemicals make us feel better (and they protect us from addictions).
As children, we were all taught to say thank you for small favors. But we often neglect to verbalize our thanks for the most meaningful things that others have done for us. For example, you might say “thanks mom,” to your mother for bringing you a glass of ice tea. But you probably, haven’t told her how much you appreciate her standing by you during that tough time you went through. This isn’t because you don’t feel grateful about it, it’s most likely because doing so would bring up a surge of emotions (and that can feel uncomfortable). If that feels intimidating, then start small and work your way up to BIG THANKFULNESS!
For those of us who want to feel better, we should practice thankfulness every day!
If you feel grateful, SAY IT!
If you don’t feel it, then start saying it anyway, because eventually you will FEEL IT!
If you are too scared to say it, then WRITE IT!
If the person you want thank isn’t alive, then tell someone else how this person has positive impacted your life. You will get the same positive biological effect.
You can start right now…. Take this moment to think about a person who has had a major positive impact in your life. Remember what they did for you and how it helped you. Next, write it down, tell the person, or tell someone else about how that person helped you.