By LAURA LEONARD
Doctor of Chiropractic
Gratitude is one of those core emotions that has a big impact on us psychologically and physiologically. We are bombarded with negative news stories, commercialism and drama for good reason.
These things are addictive and our primitive need to survive makes our brain tune to these things with ease. Developing an attitude of gratitude takes conscious creation and a willingness to become aware of what we consistently turn our attention towards.
With awareness comes the ability to redirect our mind to things that reduce stress, increase contentment and ultimately improve our overall health.
Research shows that practicing the emotion of gratitude can lead to positive structural brain changes, reduced blood pressure, improved immunity and better sleep. In his book ‘Upward Spiral’, Dr. Alex Korb talks about the bigger impact of developing gratitude. Dr. Korb sees using gratitude as a key tool to point ourselves toward positive thinking. Positive thinking equals optimism and according to research, optimism leads to a longer, healthier life.
When we give and receive thanks our brain automatically focuses on what we have and what is going well for us. Research on the neurochemical effects of gratitude show that our brains reward centers light up with activity when gratitude is actively being practiced. In addition to this effect, levels of our happy brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin go up. Our brain is only capable of focusing on positive or negative and not both at the same time. The choice is yours.
At the end of the day, what you choose to give attention to is up to you. That’s not to say you will never struggle, encounter negative things or have negative thoughts; it’s the awareness and attention piece that you have control over. Taking responsibility for what emotions reside in our consciousness is crucial. Acknowledging that we alone control our thoughts and actions allows us to redirect ourselves from a glass half empty to a glass half full mindset.
Just like going to the gym for improved fitness we have to consciously train our brain to focus on gratitude and optimism. This is especially true when life throws us curveballs. As the saying goes death and taxes are a sure thing but so is struggle. The choice is swim upstream or float downstream when things are difficult. Practicing gratitude allows us to float more than we swim.
Dr. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on nutrition, self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal Building on Trinity Drive.