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Gratitude and Brain Rewiring

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Disclaimer: I am not a brain or brain rewiring expert. I am simply sharing my personal journey and my personal understanding as it makes sense to me.

Gratitude: An Increasing Effort in My Brain Rewiring Journey

I didn’t realize the extent of my focus on gratitude this year until I re-read the posts I’ve written through these past several months.

I created a podcast recently in order to offer audio recordings of my blog posts for those who prefer to listen rather than read. I recorded 15 posts that I’d written over the course of 8 months. Until rereading them back-to-back, I didn’t realize just how often I used the words grateful and gratitude

It made me feel good to know that gratitude has been a natural part of my journey. It continues to be a conscious effort to increase my focus daily.

First: I Care What You Think of Me

Before continuing, I’d like to clarify something.

In general, I advocate the fact that what others think of us isn’t important. I am working on letting this go myself. I’m working on being OK to be “self” ish. It is absolutely OK to recognize our own needs and their importance. 

With that being said, since I’m sharing a post about gratitude . . . and since I wrote a gratitude journal series that I advertise at the end of every blog post, I do care what you think. I want to be clear that this post, this journey, this blog is not about selling books. While it would surely be awesome if they provided an income, those books have been a result of this journey, (not the other way around). If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you probably already know this about me, but I just felt the need to say it.

Now that I got that off my chest, let’s move on.

Gratitude: A Beautiful Daily Addition

According to an article posted in Princeton Health News, titled, “Can Gratitude Improve Quality of Life?”:  “The practice of gratitude encourages the development of new neural pathways.” Welll, hmmm. This is what I’m working on with brain rewiring — creating new neural pathways.

That article also included: “When gratitude is expressed and/or received, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions. Dopamine and serotonin contribute to feelings of pleasure, happiness, and overall well-being.”

If the emotion of gratitude can increase joy — isn’t this a habit worth practicing? I find gratitude to be an important part of my brain rewiring journey. 

Gratitude Through My Posts

We each have habits, both positive and negative, without knowing there there can be some awesome science behind some of those habits. Learning that gratitude releases those happy hormones, dopamine and serotonin, I am working on being more intentional with my daily practice.

I found it pretty cool to hear myself repeat those words, “grateful” and “gratitude” quite often through the 15 posts I recently recorded for my podcast. When I decided to go on a scavenger hunt to find all the times I used these words, I discovered one word or the other was used 40 times. 

Out of those 15 posts, there is only ONE that didn’t include either of those words. 

I went ahead and shared each one below, if you’re interested. 

What if I become more conscious of all the things I have to be grateful for? 

A BIG direction I was grateful for was that Facebook page I mentioned, Fragrance Free Respect

I can say, however, that I’m having success in my efforts, and I’m grateful for the process.

I’m learning how to focus more on gratitude and simple joy. 

I am forever grateful for my son’s recovery and for the proof that miracles do happen.

This is information I am so grateful to have and I am eager to share it with whoever else it can benefit.

It certainly wasn’t fun and sure made life more challenging, but I am so very grateful for discovering the cause–and more–I’m grateful to be able to share my story and hopefully help others along the way. 

I was grateful for outdoor recess and for 3:15 when I could drive home with my windows wide open.

I was ever-so-grateful.

I was so grateful for the guidance that prepared me for this next leg of my journey: advocacy to change an issue that is a barrier for so very many others.

It’s a slow and steady journey, but the overall direction is towards sunnier days and I am beyond grateful.

But it’s that discomfort that comes with a response that our brain isn’t used to (like focusing on gratitude, seeking out silly videos to inspire laughter, or turning up the music and dancing, instead of complaining and focusing on the funk) that leads to those new connections and that positive change.

I am grateful for this day. 

I am so grateful for learning about DNRS and brain rewiring. I’m grateful for the journey this past fifteen months has found me on. I’m grateful for learning that my reactions are due to a maladapted stress response in my limbic system. And I’m grateful for learning how to diminish that response.

 I am so very grateful for that voice inside me that moved me down this road and that kept the constant flow of ideas coming.

I was grateful, in February of 2022, to discover how to put on my oxygen mask.

The more I focus on things I’m grateful for, the brighter my moments become.

As I said above, gratitude just naturally brightens our lives. It’s common sense–although, this wasn’t a big part of my common sense life. Yes, I have always had many things I’ve been grateful for—MANY things. But consciously being aware of–and consciously expressing gratitude for the countless things that abound in life has not been something I’ve routinely done in a conscious way.

While I’ve enjoyed that tree through each season of the six or seven years that I’ve lived in this house, it wasn’t until this past year that I’ve consciously thought, I am grateful for you.

Stop a moment before you continue reading. Look around. Now state out loud something you are currently grateful for.

The goal is to make the focus of gratitude and joy routine.

I am grateful, however, for learning how to make joy an increasingly more natural state of being.

I allow the emotion of gratitude fill me as I enjoy the beauty that nature gives us. 

It doesn’t need to be grand. It can simply be gratitude for the air conditioning, the sound of a bird, or the fact that you found a quarter on the sidewalk.

As you intentionally practice these moments, you just might eventually find more and more reasons to feel gratitude throughout your day. And you just might find gratitude to be an increasingly more automatic response. 

Instead of trying to stop paying attention to those unwanted things, however (which just results in thinking of that “poop” even more), what if we work at increasing our practice of acknowledging the things we can be grateful for?

Instead of grumbling about the chilly day, put another layer on and feel gratitude for the clothing that keeps you warm.

Instead of complaining about the high gas prices, feel gratitude for the automobile you are able to put gas into.

 I am working at intentionally seeking out what brings me lighter, more joyful feelings. I am increasing my focus on gratitude.

I was (and still am) grateful for answers.

 I found myself, however, giving my current situation a lot more time and attention than I spent on gratitude for all that I did have and that was going well. 

When doing the circuit through the weight machines, I redirected myself towards gratitude. While doing reps, I simply counted, putting my focus on visualizing those numbers. And while resting between sets, I practiced gratitude: Thank you muscles for working for me. Thank you weight machine, for strengthening my body. Thank you gym, for providing me a place to work out.

I am recognizing more and more the impact gratitude is having on my brain-rewiring journey. Just like my workouts in the gym, I am taking it slow and gradual. I’m not pushing myself. I do what I can–and then move on.

Share Your Gratitude

Now it’s your turn. Share three things you’re grateful for at this moment.

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