How Gratitude Helps Heal Your Brain

From top scientists at Harvard, Yale and other leading research institutions all agree that gratitude has profound effects on the brain and body. Many of us know gratitude is a good thing, and yet it’s rare to meet someone who consistently practices it each day.

Why is that? If even science tells us gratitude is one of the best things for our mental and physical well-being, what holds us back from accessing it on a daily basis?

This blog will attempt to answer that question; first, by highlighting the formally-researched benefits of gratitude (some are quite surprising!) And second, by leveraging our understanding the brain to explain why gratitude can be challenging — along with the #1 secret to making gratitude easier to practice.

Science Tells Us...
Gratitude Makes You Healthier

At Biocybernaut, we’ve long been proponents of a “science first” approach. All of the claims we make are backed both by data we’ve gathered from decades of work in the field — and also by formal studies Dr. James Hardt, our founder, has pioneered.

What excites us about gratitude is the emerging science around it. Indeed, we’ve noticed in our Alpha neurofeedback trainings that gratitude and appreciation are some of the best ways to quickly increase Alpha brain wave output. More on this in a moment.

In terms of formal studies and praise within the scientific community, Dr. Blaire and Dr. Rita Justice noted that, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.” They conduct their research at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, conducted a study on gratitude that produced eye-opening results.

The experiment was designed as follows: participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, they kept a short journal. One group practiced gratitude, describing five things they were grateful for over the last week. Another group practiced complaining, noting five annoying hassles that bothered them. Lastly, there was a neutral group who was supposed to merely document five things that happened, without any focus on whether those events were positive or negative. 

Ten weeks later, they inquired into the emotional state of the subjects. The “grateful” participants ended up being 25 percent happier than the complaining group. Their health was better, and they consistently exercised 90 minutes more per week.

Gratitude Can Make You Significantly Happier

As this excellent research summary from Harvard Health notes

“Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.”

Gratitude Can Increase Motivation

Have you ever had to do “cold calls”? It’s not fun and motivation, especially after a lot of rejection, can be a challenge. However, when researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania tested how gratitude affected performance — they found out some astonishing results: “The study divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group — assigned to work on a different day — received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.”

Gratitude Can Enhance Professional Relationships

If you meet someone new and you quickly thank them for something, that person is more likely to want to pursue a relationship with you — according to a 2104 study published in Emotion. This might mean thanking a colleague for doing great work, a boss for giving you good instructions, or anyone who helped you with anything — expressing gratitude to them can be very powerful and lead to new possibilities.

Gratitude Helps You “Let Go”

Did you know that one of the greatest predictors of success is your level of empathy? A major key to empathy is not holding onto anger or resentment against others. This connects to gratitude, because in 2012 study by the University of Kentucky, participants who scored higher on gratitude tests were less likely to hold grudges or want to be critical or hurtful toward others. This, the researchers found, led to greater levels of compassion and empathy.

Gratitude Enhances Your Sleep

According to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, gratitude is one of the best things you can do for your sleep. In this experiment, subjects wrote in a journal about things for which they were grateful and those who did so before bed slept better and longer. 15 minutes of writing about gratitude was all it took to arrive at a statistically significant improvement in sleep.

Now, given all this, you might be wondering…

If Gratitude Is So Transformative,
Why Don’t We Do It All Day, Every Day?

This is where we at Biocybernaut can provide some unique insight. The dramatic results we produce in just 5-7 days of brain-wave feedback training a result of our technology, our skilled trainers, and the in-depth forgiveness process that enables one to let go of any resentment on a deep level.

The importance of letting go of resentment cannot be overstated. Without forgiveness and releasing the anger (and other negative emotion) associated with someone hurting us or wronging us, our emotional and overall intelligence scores are significantly lowered. Our health is also affected, as the anger and bitterness creates tension that constricts our spinal cord, nervous system and organs.

It is very difficult for gratitude and resentment to co-exist. When we are holding onto anger about something, it’s nearly impossible to also have any degree of appreciation for it. If one is really attached to his or her anger, it’s virtually impossible to feel gratitude in that moment.

In other words, the resentment must be cleared first — and that’s exactly what Biocybernaut helps do during its Alpha brainwave trainings. Biocybernaut uses a 14-step forgiveness process to help trainees pinpoint and release deep sources of resentment; and in the process, become more emotionally free and capable of gratitude.

Finding the Gift in Anything

One of the steps in the Biocybernaut gratitude process is what we call “finding the gift.” This refers to the part where, once you’ve gotten in touch with your feelings and begun to forgive, — you’re able to step back and find the gift that came as a result. Normally, finding a gift in a person or event that previously made you feel angry or resentful is not easy.

Yet, in the context of the process taught at Biocybernaut, it’s one of the easiest and most pleasurable steps in the process. What’s more, doing this over and over–while in deep, meditative states of high Alpha really transforms your brain’s ability to experience gratitude on a regular basis. It’s like you’re exercising that muscle at a core level–and trainees tell us their ability to access gratitude after the 5-7 days at Biocybernaut is meaningfully higher.

Think about it like this–there are two things that help you in able to maximally practice gratitude:

  1. Clearing away any deep anger or resentment; that’s where forgiveness is so valuable, and why forgiveness in the midst of deep Alpha neurofeedback enhancement is so transformative for the brain. As long as we are holding onto any resentment, our capacity for gratitude will be limited and superficial. Letting go is key.
  2. Learning to find the gift in everything; indeed, one might argue that gratitude IS the process of finding the gift in any experience, situation or person. The challenge is that, even if you’ve cleared away resentment or anger, one’s ability to find the gift in anything is a skill that must be learned and then practiced.

This happens organically and on a deep level at Biocybernaut trainings, yet it’s something you certainly can work on anytime.

Transform Your Ability to Practice Gratitude

One of the benefits of being in the Biocybernaut neurofeedback chamber like is that you see changes in your brain — in real time. You see your baseline, or where your brain is currently at, and then you see how gratitude can beneficially influence your brainwaves.

Most trainees are astonished when they see how quickly and dramatically gratitude can influence Alpha brain wave output, which (as we’ve noted elsewhere) is associated with higher IQ, creativity, emotional well-being, slowed brain aging and much more.

The challenge for you, in the midst of your daily life, will be to consciously let go and forgive away resentments, and actively practice finding the gift in every person or situation you encounter. This will go a long way toward strengthening your gratitude “muscle” or capacity to be grateful every single day — and to reap many of the benefits we’ve covered in this blog.

It will not be as deep as the immersion you experience at Biocybernaut, but you can still make profound strides at home that will serve you well

And should you ever decide to attend a training with us–your gratitude work will help your brain jump right in, outputting high levels of Alpha as you embrace the forgiveness process that leads to such deep transformation.

Either way, we look forward to serving and sharing more with you soon.

 

Sincerely,

The Biocybernaut Team