As you know, I keep a gratitude journal where I record five specific things I’m thankful for at the beginning of each day (and sometimes I do this at night as a reflection practice). I do this not only because of God’s invitation to “give thanks in all circumstances” as “God’s will for me in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17), but also because of the neuroscience behind gratitude. It’s clear from numerous published research studies that gratitude changes your brain. One summary reports that “that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine.” Dopamine is our brain’s pleasure chemical. The more we think positive, grateful thoughts, the healthier and happier we feel.”
But sometimes I want to support my brain even more than simply writing down what I’m thankful for. Today a friend told me how he took a picture every day of one thing he was thankful for and posted it on Instagram. He reported that this made a huge difference in his life. Motivated by his daily practice, I invited one of my friends to text me a daily picture of what she was thankful for, and I would do the same. My picture involved my new cozy cardigan for fall!
If you’re feeling down lately and want to boost your serotonin and dopamine–and more importantly accept God’s offer to live a grateful life–try the gratitude journal and the picture today.