How many of you practice gratitude throughout the year rather than just at this time of year? Every year we celebrate Thanksgiving when we like to focus on what we are thankful for, but why not all year long. What I have learned in brain science about when we are being in appreciation for things is that it can unleash something in the brain called oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone.  How many of us want more of that in our busy stressful lives?

I decided to practice an exercise of being in appreciation several weeks ago. Jim Wilder, whom I consider to be an expert in brain science, suggests practicing a gratitude exercise at his conference, Thrive. He challenges you to focus on what you appreciate 3x a day for 30 days to increase the joy center in the brain. He claims that doing this for 30 days will help us in our level of experiencing contentment and joy in our lives.  I decided to engage in this exercise as I wanted to see how it would shift things with my feelings.

The biggest nugget I took away was I experienced more appreciation for things that normally I wouldn’t be grateful for – like getting in a conflict with your spouse or child, or your boss favoring someone else for a promotion, or someone rejecting you or speaking poorly of you.  When I began to be in gratitude for everything even when things didn’t show up according to my expectations, it was amazing how I could begin to see the good.   My brain has been starting to shift from negative to positives, looking for more good in everything that happens.  According to Wilder that will secrete new hormonal releases in our body.

In Caroline Leaf’s book, Switch On Your Brain,  she shares all of the ways the part of the brain called the amygdala affects our feelings. The amygdala is basically designed to deal with positive love-based emotions like joy and happiness, but when it is flooded with negativity, it doesn’t work properly. Practicing gratitude can be a great way to shift this negativity and flood your brain with good chemicals that bring you to a state of feeling good.  I highly recommend her book for anyone wanting to shift your negative thinking patterns.

I challenge you to try this exercise so you can make it a habit to have Thanksgiving every day of the year. I believe you will find it impacting your relationship with yourself and others in a positive way!  We can then live a more joy-filled life!