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

Disney’s Dream

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Today I spent the morning working and am currently spending the afternoon with my pups and watching Netflix, with the balcony door open because it’s gorgeous outside. No activities have me outside the house today, so I found this to be a perfect time to share some motivation.

While watching Netflix, I came to a movie called Walt Before Mickey. Growing up on Disney movies and hearing my parents talk about his story to creating his amazing industry, I couldn’t help but watch it. Walt Before Mickey is an independent 2015 biographical drama film about the early years of Walt Disney and the book Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919–1928 by Timothy S. Susanin. At a young age, Walt’s father, who didn’t really support his drawing, got ill and his family relocated to Kansas City. After his first job as a drawer for a filming company, Walt began to start his own animation business with some great friends who were cartoonists at his previous job. Walt’s company Laugh-O-Grams bankruptcy and became homeless, making good friends with a mouse who found his way into Walt’s old office. Walt then moved to Los Angeles, CA to try again at creating his own business and asked his brother Roy Disney to help with the business side, which Walt admitted he was not very good at. Before almost hitting rock bottom again, on his way home on a train, with his then fiancé Lillian, Walt saw mouse ears in the clouds and drew up who became Mickey Mouse. It was a theatrical success; and thus, Walt Disney’s name was seen on the big screen, and his empire was born.

walt disney quotes

Merriam-Webster defines a dream to be “something notable for its beauty, excellence, or enjoyable quality” as well as “a strongly desired goal or purpose something that fully satisfies a wish”.  A dream is something you imagine, and can never be something molded by others. The manner at which you go about making your dream a reality may have mid-course corrections. But your dream is what you imagine abstractly and work to make concrete.

No matter the downfalls he came to, he never failed to ask for help and that people would continue to have hope in his dream. His best friend Ub from his first job, his fiancé Lilian, and his brother Roy were the only ones to stay and see his dream come to fruition. The lesson learned: dreams do not just materialize right in front of you. Working with a loyal support team, a network of teammates, is the only way to achieve your dreams. It has taken me years upon years for me to understand that a battle is not won with one person or even two. DON’T be afraid to ask for help. DON’T listen to negativity, but DO listen to guidance and honest assistance. DON’T tell yourself how hard it is, only what you see down the road. DON’T short change your potential, and laugh much, imagine more, and DO THE IMPOSSIBLE!

Happily,

Coral Jinright

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