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Monday Musing - Gratitude

It’s November, and in America that means we celebrate Thanksgiving at the end of the month. So, let’s look at gratitude in our Monday Musings this month.

We humans have been talking about gratitude for a long time. The Roman scholar Cicero said, “Gratitude is both the parent and greatest of all virtues.” Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful: thankfulness.” The word itself is derived from the Latin “gratia,” meaning gratefulness or thankfulness. Robert Emmons, a well-known gratitude researcher believes there are two core components of gratitude:

* Affirmation – attestation of goodness

* Acknowledgement – having a way to accept that the “source of this goodness are outside of ourselves.”

In her decades of research that led to the creation of “Atlas of the Heart,” Brene Brown defines gratitude as “an emotion that reflects our deep appreciation for what we value, what brings meaning to our lives, and what makes us feel connected to ourselves and others.” She goes on to state that it is a practice, not an attitude. While having an “attitude of gratitude” is a catchy phrase, it is simply a way of thinking. A practice is a way we do something: we do it, maybe fail, try again…always doing.

The beauty of living in this time is we can also look at our brains and understand what is happening neurologically when we receive or give gratitude.

* Dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters responsible for happiness are enhanced.

* New neural connections are made in the “bliss center” of the brain.

* Because gratitude evokes positive thinking, it encourages cognitive restructuring.

* It regulates stress hormones, thereby reducing fear and anxiety.

Next week we’ll look at all the way gratitude benefits us, which in turn benefits the world.

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