In ancient cultures, the heart was often viewed as the seat of the soul and happiness was directly related to the state of the heart. Western culture gives more credibility to the brain than to the heart. It is commonly assumed that the brain sends more signals to the heart than the heart sends to the brain. However, research shows that the heart is an organ of significant intelligence and that there are far more neural connections that go from the heart to the brain.
The American Heart Association reports, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure and improve immune function… grateful people engage in more exercise, have better dietary behaviors, are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol, and have higher rates of medication adherence.”
Gratitude research clearly points us toward the beneficial value of practicing thankfulness. There are some simple ways to get started:
- Choose to say ‘I get to do this,’ instead of ‘I have to do this.’
- Install a mindset of feeling lucky rather than deserving of good fortune.
- Keep a journal of three good things that you record at the end of every day.
- Write a “gratitude letter” to someone who you have not previously thanked.
- Keep a “gratitude jar” for notes that can be written spontaneously.
At the most basic level, simply ask yourself each day “What am I grateful for?” We can bring greater awareness and appreciation to what is going right and let ourselves be touched by the goodness in ourselves, others, and the world. When we open our hearts in this way, we can begin to embrace life as it is with all of its imperfections, and find ourselves transformed.