Why IS Gratitude Important?

My blog post from yesterday got me thinking, and I realized that while gratitude is something that you probably often hear about in relation to creating happiness, you might not know why it’s important. So that’s what we are going to talk about today- why gratitude, or positive thinking, or acknowledging what you are grateful for is actually important.

(Gotta add a little green for St. Patty’s day!)

Gratitude thinking is not the “band-aid on a gun shot wound” sort of treatment that you may think it is. It’s not suggested by therapists, life coaches, and ancient wisdoms to distract you, or make you “touchy-feely,” or to down play the difficult things that may be going on in your life. Honestly, it’s not.

Gratitude thinking has the ability to physically reorganize our brains so we can treat the cause of the problem not just the symptoms. So instead of taking Pepcid AC when your tummy gets upset, you avoid getting the upset tummy all together. Does that make sense?

To start, we have to understand the human brain just a little bit more (promise I won’t go off the deep end with this, hang in there with me for a few sentences).

Our brain is an organ like every other body part we have. This particular organ is like an elaborate map of dirt roads in our heads. There are endless twists and turns and ways of getting to our destination, and like driving on a dirt road, the paths we use most often become the easiest to travel on because they have nice deep tracks already created. If we take these routes we are able to follow along in the tracks, and have a nice smooth ride. Our thoughts work the exact same way.

The thought patterns we use most often have the deepest tracks, and therefore are the easiest to use. So if we are constantly thinking “something is going to go wrong,” or “I hate this,” or “nothing good ever happens to me” that is the pathway with the deepest tracks and the route our brain sends all it’s thoughts through.

Gratitude thinking changes this. By including gratitude thinking in our day, and forcing ourselves to see things from a new angle, we physically create a new pathway (or dirt road) in our brains.

As the tracks in this more positive pathway become deeper and deeper it becomes easier and easier for our brains to send information through these tracks. The more information that goes through these positive tracks, the easier it is for us to see things more positively, and to feel more positive and hopeful.

Gratitude thinking has the same snowball reaction that negative thinking does, and as your positive tracks deepen it becomes easy to see the good side of not-so-good things.  Like in this blog.

Another way to look at it is that gratitude thinking is actually exercise for our brains. It helps new muscles develop and strengthen, and literally changes the physical look and function of our brains just like bench pressing changes our physical bodies.

So next time someone tells you to “think positively” don’t write him or her off so quickly. Maybe they are on to something……



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