Why Being Thankful is Good for Your Health
Thanksgiving: a time of thankfulness and of giving. The name right there says it all! And certainly after Thanksgiving we roll directly into the December holidays: Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa – more opportunities to refocus the season into a time of thankfulness and gratitude.
Feeling grateful can actually be quite good for your health. An appreciation for what we have in our lives can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. The holiday season can be quite stressful for people for a multitude of reasons. Finding ways to feel and express gratitude can alleviate many of those stressors.
According to the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA (yes, there really is such a place), regularly expressing gratitude actually changes the molecular structure of your brain. A study that measured brain activity as participants experienced different showed that expressions of gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the production of dopamine.
Seratonin and dopamine are both our “feel good” hormones that light up our brain’s reward pathways. In short, when we express gratitude, our brain releases hormones that make us feel happy!
The hypothalamus, which is also part of our brain that is activated when we express gratitude, controls multiple bodily functions that include eating, drinking and sleeping. The hypothalamus also affects our stress levels and metabolism. So when we feel and express gratitude, the trickle-down effect of a happy hypothalamus means we can expect better sleep, increased energy levels and lower depression.
More Good News.
Now here’s some interesting science: the simple act of searching for something to be grateful for can be more beneficial than the actual thing you are grateful for. Yeah, you might have to read that again. Essentially, when we have a bad day or feel like things are not going our way, taking a few moments to really try and think about something good in our lives sparks brain activity that is critical for experiencing good sleep, metabolism and mood regulation.
It Gets Easier the More You Do It.
When our brains release dopamine and serotonin as a result of feeling gratitude and appreciation, it triggers our brains to want more of those feel-good hormones. The more you seek and express gratefulness, the more your brain reacts – in a positive way!
Make it a daily habit to take a moment and really think about something that you are grateful for. Skip the low-hanging fruit of obvious things you are grateful for, and activate your brain’s hypothalamus by really seeking out something more obscure to appreciate.
Thankful for You.
Well, we don’t have to think very hard to acknowledge that all of us at Smile Surfers Kids Dentistry are grateful for our patients. We know you have a choice in who provides your dental care, and we appreciate that you have placed your trust in our team. We work hard every day to provide personalized care that makes your little surfers feel comfortable, confident and safe.