Posted in Of Heart and Mind

Your Brain on Gratitude

‘Tis the season. Thanksgiving is here, and soon, Christmas will be, too. Today, in church service, we discovered how our body and mind respond to experiencing gratitude on a regular basis. This is what we will be discussing today.

An individual is positively affected neurologically, physically and emotionally when they experience gratitude regularly. The Huffington Post wrote an article called “The Neuroscience of Gratitude” which shares the following implications of gratitude:

  • production of dopamine and serotonin increases
  • it can be a natural antidepressant
  • the more these neural pathways are fired, the more automatic it becomes
  • encourages the search for constructive themes, rather than destructive ones

A study conducted in 2015 by four researchers created a four-condition experiment (stimulus, reflection, probe and rest) where participants read an excerpt telling of one of four phases of the Holocaust: 1. The rise of Nazism and Persecution, 2. Internment, 3. The Final Solution, 4. Final Months and Liberation. After reading the excerpt, they were instructed to reflect and feel, as much as possible, how it would feel to experience what they had just read, and create a deep, personal, realistic reaction. Then, they had to rate how much gratitude they felt on a scale from 1 to 4. A black screen would then be presented, as they were instructed to rest and release their mind of all thoughts for a 12-16 second period, acting as a baseline prior to the next phase. The four conditions of the experiment are shown in the figure below. The hypothesis? “That gratitude ratings would correlate with activity in brain regions associated with moral cognition, value judgment and theory of mind.”

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Experiment Protocol

The results? “Ratings of gratitude correlated with brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, in support of our hypotheses. The results provide a window into the brain circuitry for moral cognition and positive emotion that accompanies the experience of benefitting from the goodwill of others.”

How awesome! When we feel grateful, we begin to elicit the positive emotion that comes from experiencing the benefit of a gift from someone. Even amidst tragedy and shortfall, simply “thinking” gratitude into existence will rewire the neural pathways to make it a habit for emotional well-being.

Here are four ways that you can practice gratitude:

  1. Write it down. On a daily basis, write down at least 5 things you are grateful for.
  2. Get into a routine of gratitude. You can have an accountability partner; you can write it every morning before you start your day; you can keep a list posted to be reminded daily. Whatever works for you.
  3. Meditate. You can do so sitting quietly or during your favorite exercise activity, such as yoga, pilates or even running.
  4. Surround yourself with people who share gratitude, too. These people might be family, co-workers or your church friends. Make sure you are not exposed to complaints every day. Be grateful and help others do the same.

Best Wishes,

Coral A.J. Gibson

Posted in Of Heart and Mind

Depression, PTSD and Other Mental Illnesses

Every week, we come into contact with new people that enter our lives. These people can be introduced into your life as clients, friends, customers, co-workers, love interests, and even family you’ve never met before. One thing that we all possess is a real self, which is the person that we are currently living as. However, we all also possess an ideal self, that person we wish or aim to become. This is something I studied in great detail my junior year at Hendrix College in Dr. Dana Leighton’s Social Cognition course when I wrote this research paper discussing The Salience of Guilt, Self-Blame and Hopelessness.

fully functioning person, according to Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, is one who is possesss these five characteristics:

  1. Open to experience: both positive and negative emotions accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, but worked through.
  2. Existential living: being able to live and fully appreciate the present, allowing themselves to experience life, not always looking back to the past or forward to the future.
  3. Trust feelings: decisions made ourselves due to feeling, instincts and gut-reactions are paid attention to and trusted.
  4. Creativity: not playing safe all the time, taking risks and thinking creatively, including the ability to adjust and change and seek new experiences.
  5. Fulfilled life: happy and satisfied with one’s life, yet looking for new challenges and experiences.

Such a person also exists when the individual is able to accept that our selves are not in congruent (the real self is not full equivalent to the the ideal self), and is patient and understanding with themselves in working towards becoming as such. But what happens when the individuals does not accept the gap between the real self and the ideal self is most frequently mental illness, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. This is something that I dedicated a significant amount of my time to research. In fact, I intend to continue to pursue research and turn my paper (referred to at the top of the page) into a fully comprehensible book on what this all means. It’s something that I am very passionate about.

Please take the 30 minutes it may require to really read through this information and digest it. Something as fundamental as this is a big reason why there is disconnect in our society. So many people don’t believe they are capable of ever becoming their ideal self, and therefore revoke their ability to be fully functioning people contributing to society. Similarly, most people witness the impediments faced by such a person and are unable to put their egos aside. They can’t understand that the person they see can’t just set aside their concerns and instantaneously become the person they wish to be. The concept of patience is simple, but hardly practiced.

Just a tidbit to take with you as you embark on new journeys. Have a marvelous weekend!

Ever so graciously,

Coral Jinright

Resources:

 

Posted in Of Heart and Mind

Opportunities Arise

If you’ve known me long enough (or well enough), you’ve come to learn that I don’t do well without a task. Whether that task is to make people before 110% better at the end of a training session, finish up the rest of my 15 page undergraduate research paper, or simply do an oil change on my motorcycle, I am always looking for something that has an end result. Sometimes, though, that inhibits you from appreciating all of the connections you’ve made along the way. I’ve made connections with people, with God, with animals, with machines, with Mother Nature. And sadly, day by day, some of those connections are taken for granted. To me, that is highly unacceptable. So on Earth Day, I sit here in a restaurant sipping my water (after eating some eggs, sausage and gluten-free pancakes) after a CRAZY leg day. I’m seeing single mothers have lunch with her two daughters too young to sit in the booth; I’m seeing two elderly women discuss patterns and colors for a project they are working on together; I’m seeing husband and wife share a lunch together after such a busy week.

We have all fallen victim to waltzing through life, staring at the flowers in the grass. But maybe, we haven’t been admiring the magnificence of the blue sky, the air conditioning in your car, or the clothes on your body. When you stop and take the time to really look at EVERYTHING, the whole world is different. I live a fast-paced life, multiple jobs, and a million to-do’s written on a piece of paper in my backpack. Writing this post is thanks to the abundance of reading I have been doing about our miraculous human body, the love of my boyfriend, dogs and family, the guidance of my mentors and the dedication of my peers to serve as a great model to those around them. Chase after your dreams. Write them everywhere! A whiteboard or a bathroom mirror instead of just a piece of paper you can crumple up and throw away. See these things EVERY DAY and know the Universe is pulling these things together to see you flourish. Embrace it.

Faithfully,

Coral Jinright