Gratitude is among the first social graces we teach our children. For every cookie, every birthday gift and every kind word, we incessantly remind them, “Say thank you.”
Gratitude is among our first life lessons because it is a key indicator of a civilized person.
“A person of no integrity is ungrateful & unthankful,” said the Buddha in his teachings to his students.
Islam ranks gratitude among its highest beliefs.(5)
The Apostle Paul went so far as to say gratitude is God’s will. “Be joyful always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
Gratitude is both civility and spiritual practice.
“Thankfulness can be understood as courtesy or as conscience; as social gesture or as sacred grace; as a way of talking or as a state of the soul; as an aspect of personality or as a part of character,” wrote Rabbi Norman Lamm.
Gratitude Affects the Brain
The practice of gratitude has been associated with better sleep, reduced anxiety and lowered depression.(6)
An NIH study found that gratitude increases activity to the hypothalamus — the area of the brain responsible for homeostasis — keeping your metabolism, hormones and autonomic nervous system in balance.(7)
Researchers from the the University of Southern California decided to pinpoint the neurobiological correlates of gratitude, i.e., what’s happening in the brain.
Study participants underwent MRIs while being encouraged to feel gratitude. Researchers suspected that participants experiencing gratitude would have corresponding brain activity in regions associated with moral cognition, value judgment and theory of mind.(2)
Stories of Holocaust survivors were used to prompt a response of gratitude in the participants. Survivors related gratitude-filled tales of being sheltered by strangers and of receiving clothing and lifesaving food.
Study participants were asked to imagine themselves in the context of the Holocaust, experiencing the same kindnesses.
1) Lamm, Rabbi Norman. Gratitude Is Good For The Soul. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
2) Fox, Glenn R. et al. Neural correlates of gratitude. Journal.Frontiersin.org. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
3) Anterior Cingulate Cortex: Unique Role in Cognition and Emotion. neuro.PsychiatryOnline.org. September 13, 2016.
4) The Role of Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Memory and Decision Making. cell.com. September 13, 2016.
5) Gratitude I. September 13, 2016 IslamWeb.net.
6) Korb, Alex PhD. PsychologyToday.com. September 13, 2016.
7) Hypothalamus. healthline.com. September 13, 2016.