What’s the most important question to ask when you feel blue? The answer, from neuroscientist and UCLA researcher Alex Korb, (also the author of The Upward Spiral) is simple: What am I grateful for?
What am I grateful for?
Gratitude, it turns out, boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine, the same thing that Wellbutrin does. It also boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is Prozac’s specialty. And gratitude is a whole lot cheaper.
Thinking of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.
But wait, you say. My life is a country western song on steroids. I can’t find a single thing to be grateful for.
Korb consoles us with, IT DOESN’T MATTER. “You don’t have to find anything,” he says about your gratitude search. “It’s the searching that counts.”
One study found that remembering to be grateful actually made remembering-to-be-grateful easier. It has to do with neuron density in the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. (Oops, that just slipped out. Sorry. I won’t do that again.)
What’s the takeaway from this exciting research?
I turn to my refrigerator magnet collection, my repository of my philosophy of life:
Of course, just beneath it is this one, an early gift from Woody:
Yes. I think the lesson is simple: look around you and see what you already have. Then, commit to being grateful for it, even if it’s a black cat that hogs the middle of the bed. The research promises it’ll get easier in time.
How about you? What are you grateful for today?
NEXT WEEK: Come along with me in my search for a blog post topic.[box] Interested in reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe? I hope so.
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