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Gratitude and Your Brain

“Gratitude bestows reverence...changing forever how we experience life and the world.” ~ John Milton.

You may think that the time for giving thanks is over till next Thanksgiving. But let’s rethink that attitude to gratitude. Gratitude is defined as a state of thankfulness for and recognition of good things in your life, and it is no rinky-dink, passing emotion to be relegated to a single November day. Consider that in psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps people feel more positive, relish experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, build strong relationships and generally have a better life. Pretty impressive, right? Neuroscientists agree, and have carried out several studies to try and understand the neurocognitive processes associated with gratitude.

fMRI research connects gratitude with activity in two main regions of the brain - the anterior cingulate cortex (AC), and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The ACC is thought to be important for the ability to feel, control and manage emotions. The mPFC is associated with social reward and interpersonal bonding and its activation with gratitude may promote more prosocial behaviors, i.e. those that move you to act for the greater good rather th