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5 words which can help your brain health

5 words which can help your brain health

If the last few months have taught us anything, it’s the small, seemingly insignificant experiences that we have much gratitude for.Whether it’s a hand written note from a friend, the colourful joy in a bunch of fresh flowers, the crisp clean feel of new pyjamas or a freshly baked croissant from your local bakery. Pre-covid we probably took much for granted and now is a great time to re-set your brain to be more attuned to gratitude.

“Today I am grateful for…” are the 5 words which can alter your mood. Our brain chemistry shifts when we use gratitude as a way to train your brain away from negativity and focus on positivity.The emphasis is on train, as our brain is a muscle and the more we use it or train it, the more our brain chemistry benefits. Over the past two decades scientists have made great strides toward understanding the biological roots of gratitude, the various benefits that accompany gratitude and the ways that people can cultivate feelings of gratitude in their day-to-day lives. The studies comprising this science of gratitude are the subject of much research .

Some of my friends and patients use a gratitude journal to help them develop positive emotions.If you’re able to get into the habit of focussing on gratitude you’ll be able to switch your brain and mindset from lack to abundance and form a low mood to a happier one, especially over time.The more you do it, the more you become attuned to the positive benefits of experiencing gratitude.Here are my 8 simple tips to help you get into a groove with gratitude:

What are you looking forward to? Whether it’s a socially distanced BBQ with friends or a weekend break in a hotel by the seaside, or pre-ordering a really good book or treating yourself to a takeaway dinner.It’s good to visualise and think about what you’re excited about, positive anticipation is a good feeling to cultivate.

Make it into a ritual You could set yourself a challenge to acknowledge three things you’re grateful for each day. It needn’t be earth shattering – getting a parking space first time, having a yearned for coffee from your favourite local barista or for the fact the sun is shining during British summertime. The little things as we know, mean a lot.

Write it down Keep it in your diary or treat yourself to a lovely notebook and keep a record. Writing it down or storing it as notes on your phone is a powerful way for your brain to acknowledge the gratitude.

Gratitude for what you don’t have This sounds counterintuitive – but for a moment think about all the things you’re not having to deal with – many people are experiencing ill health, work stress and losing their livelihoods. It could always be so much worse.

Who are you grateful to?
Your partner, your kids, your clients, your patients, your next-door neighbour, your friend, your hairdresser, your pharmacist, your Doctor, the NHS,  the Amazon delivery person? There’s always someone you can silently thank in your mind.

Think about the positive gains The global pandemic has taken it’s toll on all of us, in one way shape or form but what are the upsides ? Have you spent more time with your partner and kids, does your dog love you even more?Are your house plants looking particularly healthy and happy? Have you enjoyed a slower pace of life, not doing the daily commute and enjoying quality chats with friends on the phone?

Say thank you
Super simple but really acknowledging your thanks is powerful and has the ability to make someone’s day and your brain will register this with a dopamine hit.A study from 2019 shows that expressing gratitude affects not only the grateful person, but anyone who witnesses it.

Be kind Being kind is a win win, you don’t just change your own brain chemistry, you have the power to change the recipient’s brain too. Read more on the science of kindness here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, we are grateful for your time and the opportunity to help improve your brain health and mental wellbeing.

Dr Clara Russell