Gratitude is Your True Ticket to Happiness
If this is your first time hearing this, it may come as a shock. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? There’s a little something called, the science of gratitude.
Now you might be tempted into thinking, oh, gratitude is just some foo-foo mumbo jumbo new age philosophy. But you’d actually be wrong. It’s been studied, relentlessly studied, and these studies indicate that gratitude can actually change your brain and your life and help you achieve the one goal we all have – more happiness!
Where do Most of Our Thoughts Lie?
The problem is that most of us exist in this mental state where we focus on a slew of negative thoughts, one after another that’s being played on a loop day in and day out. Whether it’s stress over paying the bills, health, global warming, a presidential impeachment. It sometimes feels like all news is bad news; that all thoughts are negative thoughts.
Do this exercise for one day and see what you find: Monitor your thoughts. Warning – this won’t be easy. You’ll have to use great mental energy to just monitor your thoughts, but that’s the first step.
Notice where your mind wanders off to. Notice if those thoughts are positive or negative and stressful. We’re engaged in thought all day long and often without realizing it. And sadly, it really does feel like a loop, as most of our thoughts are not only negative, but they’re also repetitive.
Science has proven that if you can change negative thoughts into positive thoughts, grateful thoughts, that this actually rewires your brain. And once your brain is rewired, the net effect is an increase in happiness.
Thoughts + Gratitude = Happiness
if we boiled it down to a simple equation, that’s how it would look. There have been numerous research studies done on this. In one 10-week study, participants were split into two groups. One group was told to write down only positive thoughts and things they were grateful for. The other group was instructed to only write down negative or stressful thoughts.
After the 10 weeks were up, what researchers found was that the participants in the gratitude group scored happier on self-assessments, had fewer visits to the doctor, had a better sense of overall well-being, and even exercised more frequently.
In another study at the University of Pennsylvania, 300 adults who were receiving counseling for depression and anxiety were split into three groups. Members in the first group had to write letters of gratitude. Members in the second group had to write about negative experiences in their lives. And the third group did nothing extra.
After three months, researchers performed MRIs on all of their brains. The folks in the first group, the gratitude group, showed more prefrontal cortex activity in their brains. And as you might have expected, they also had an increase in happiness and a decrease in stress.
What Does This Have to do With Chiropractic?
You knew we were getting around to this connection, didn’t you? Happiness actually occupies an area in the brain, and that area is within the prefrontal cortex. And as it just so happens, regular chiropractic adjustments have been found to affect this same area in a positive way.
This is why chiropractors routinely see patients overcome anxiety and depression with regular chiropractic treatment and adjustments. (If you thought we only treated bad necks and backs, take a minute to let your mind be blown.)
In this article in Psychology Today, Ron Breazeale Ph.D. goes into great detail on the prefrontal cortex part of the brain and what he calls the true home to our emotions.
He says in the article, that we all “can change the way we think through repeated exposure to healthy thoughts, avoidance of unhealthy thoughts, and engagement in healthy behaviors.”
There’s a lot of science in that article that we won’t go into it, but it’s still a great read. And if you’re into the science, you’ll love it even more.
Raise your hand if you’re NOT interested in being happier. I’ll bet no one reading this has their hand up right now. No matter what your individual goals are, we all want to be happy. And healthy. Remember, participants in the gratitude group in the first study we referenced, exercised more simply because they were happier.
Do you know what else makes us happier? Exercise! Let your brains tangle with that for a minute. Talk about a potentially huge shift in momentum. By practicing gratitude, you’ll become happier and more prone to exercising more, which in turn makes us happier.
It’s all connected, people! Mind, body, spirit.
Other Ways to Increase Gratitude and Become Happier
Yes, this is a chiropractic article and we’d all love to see you in the office more frequently, but there are other things you can do as well.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Upon waking and just before going to bed, write down a few things you feel grateful for. Just a few. But the secret is this: you have to FEEL grateful. Some of you may be tempted to think, but I don’t have anything to be grateful for. But if you’re reading this, you have the gift of sight, and what a tremendous gift that is. If you’re reading this, you have a brain that works. So forth and so on. We can all find some things to be grateful for.
- Become an interceptor. Recognize the negative thoughts throughout your day, stop them in their tracks, and refocus your energy on something good in your life. We cannot repeat how difficult this is despite sounding so simple. Our comfort zone is lost in thought, but not usually a good thought. Become aware enough in the beginning to recognize, stop, and shift, and you’ll find that this will become a habit, and more importantly, you’ll get a tremendous momentum shift boost. Gratitude creates more things to be grateful for, which creates more gratitude. Let your brains tangle with this one for a second as well.
- Write thank-you notes. You don’t have to send them but you do have to physically write them. Not text, not type. Write! Want to rewire your brain to become happier? Then break out a pen and a piece of paper.
- Meditate or pray. Talk about a serious way to boost prefrontal cortex activity, which is why some of the happiest people on the planet are Buddhist monks who have nothing. They’re champion meditators. However, prayer has the same effect. And you don’t have to be religious. If you are, that’s great. If you’re not, try praying to the Universe, or your future self. It doesn’t matter. Just put that awesome and positive energy out there and see what happens.
- Get regular chiropractic adjustments. This one is the easiest of all because someone else is actually doing the heavy lifting for you. But the benefits are the same – more prefrontal cortex activity, more happiness, and better health.
If you’re interested in solution #5, make sure you see a truchiropractor, or TRUCHIRO as we like to say. Go to truchiro.org and have a look at our searchable database to find a TRUCHIRO in your area. And if you’re reading this article on your local chiropractor’s website, you can be sure that he or she is a TRUCHIRO.
Make an appointment today, if you want … no pressure, and get adjusted … physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Remember, whether we understand it or not, it’s all connected. But regardless of whether or not you choose regular chiropractic adjustments, commit right now to recognizing those negative thoughts, stopping them in their tracks, and engaging in positive thoughts instead.
Happy holidays everyone!