How Practicing Gratitude Will Rewire Your Brain

Thanksgiving is ostensibly the one time of year when (as we chew marshmallow-covered yams and avert political discussions) we reflect on what we are most thankful for. Sometimes at the host’s request, we have to stand around the table before we eat, and struggle as we search our minds for the answer— what are we grateful for? What is it that, in these difficult and troubling times, gives us our sense of hope and purpose? And why is it so hard to remember?

Our minds, of course, fall victim to negativity bias. As written about extensively by Rick Hanson (Hardwiring Happiness), negativity bias is our brain’s natural homebase. We remember “bad” events more than good ones, hang on to that nasty thing our coworker said and forget the praise our boss gave us.

That structuring was originally created in order to protect us. After all, if we can’t remember which berries are poisonous and which aren’t, our lives are on the line. But now that’s an outdated operating system, as ancient as Windows 95, and we must use the magic of neuroplasticity to rewire our brains. And how do we do that? If it were so easy to rewire our brains, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

It's a practice to take a moment each day to take in natural beauty and reflect on positive events. And like all practices, it takes stamina to stick to it....more