Did you know that a gratitude practice can actually change your brain? It can result in feeling happier and having a positive attitude.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude seems like a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean? Dictionary.com defines gratitude as:

“the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Another way of defining gratitude comes from Sadhguru.org: “recognizing the bonus value for favorable things or positive life experiences for which we did not actively work towards or ask for.” 

Gratitude is the icing on the cake, the unexpected sunny day, the little extra that brightens our day, and it is an emotional response. 

How Gratitude Changes Your Brain

Practice Gratitude

Click to see larger image

This post was inspired by this article at positivepsychology.com which goes much further in-depth than I’m going here.  The most interesting part is how practicing gratitude actually makes physical changes to your brain. 

The part of your brain involved in gratefulness is called the right anterior temporal cortex. Apparently, those who feel a lot of gratitude have more grey matter in their right inferior temporal gyrus (the very bottom part in the image).

The temporal lobe is responsible for assigning meaning to sounds, establish object recognition for vision, and understanding language. It also manages emotion and memory. (link

Feeling grateful releases neurotransmitters, crucial for emotions, which bind to specific receptors on neurons – those cells which communicate with each other in our brain. This is super-simplistic, but regular release of these neurotransmitters create neural pathways, which make it easer for communication to happen. Think of it as a road that transports happiness or positivity.

By looking only at the negative or downside of life those neural pathways weaken – resulting in a rutted, unpaved road that can’t transmit happiness or positivity very well. Practicing gratitude daily reinforces and boosts those neural pathways – turning them from unpaved roads to superhighways for happiness and positivity. 

Your Gratitude Practice

Just like physical exercise, repetition is the key. But unlike physical exercise you don’t have to breathe hard, get sweaty, or even move out of your chair! (although exercise does help in mood improvement, but that’s another blog post.)

Wake Up

Before crawling out of your comfortable bed say to yourself “I’m going to have a wonderful day! I’m going to do my absolute best, be kind to everyone I meet, even if they don’t like me back. I’m looking forward to today!” 


Try writing down three things you are grateful for every day. That’s it. Three things. They don’t need to be big things. This morning I was grateful for my nice, warm weighted blanket in my chilly bedroom, the cheery barista where I get my coffee, and how much my dog loves me even when I get irritated with her.

Be Aware

During the day when you feel irritable, angry, or stressed, just stop! Think “am I doing the best I can right now?” Of course you are! So turn that around to “I am doing the best I can right now.”  Sometimes I just stop and think “I am doing what I should be doing right now and that is enough.” My mood usually turns right around. If it doesn’t, or if the source of my irritation seems to be out of my control I take a deep breath and think about how my cheerful attitude will likely piss the other person off. Find gratitude where you can, y’all!


How do you practice gratitude? What do you do when someone cuts you off in traffic, or your coworker thinks their work is more important than yours? Let me know in the comments!


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