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 Corrective Exercise, Of Heart and Mind

Physiological Benefits of Yoga

Have you ever practiced yoga? Do you have someone in your life who seems to live at a yoga studio? The anecdotal evidence for practicing yoga is unquestionable: feelings of peace, mindfulness, heightened awareness, lowered stress, increased strength, among so many others. Even just 15 minutes a day of yoga is able to soothe the body by connecting breaths with movement to provide psychological benefits to this practice.

Even more empowering than the physical and psychological aspects of yoga are the physiological implications of current research. This National Health Interview Survey in 2015 looked to compare the use of different complementary health approaches in the United States. They found that 9.5% of U.S. adults (21 million) used yoga as a mind & body practice; this is an increase from 6.1% in 2007 and 5.1% in 2002. The numbers are still rising.

With this rise in the application of yoga to help improve health, it is valid to say there is something else more significant that people are benefitting from in their practice. Take 25 minutes of your time to watch this incredible video to get insight on where research is taking yoga.

Since 2012, Medicare has covered cardiac rehabilitation programs that include yoga. This is astounding to see alternative medicine applied amongst the Western medicine practices to help with cardiac rehabilitation by stabilizing blood pressure and reducing stress. Similarly, in this interview, Susan Taylor, PhD. discusses how neuroplasticity is directly affected by the meditation that takes place during yoga. “Positive thoughts expand our brains. Negative thoughts shrink them.” An extensive number of research studies show the positive effects of yoga on the neural communication across the brain that provides a more stable brain and “self-directed neuroplasticity”.

Enjoy looking through these Instagram pages for inspiration into making yoga a more regular practice in your life:

Experience the physical, psychological AND physiological benefits that can only be found through the practice of yoga and meditation.

Resources:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/03/01/yoga-health-fitness-trends/23881391/

https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/NHIS/2012/mind-body/yoga

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ipp-gjAxbXw&feature=youtu.be&list=WL

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/neuroplasticity