An Antidote to Dissatisfaction - The science behind gratitude and thankfullness

Everyone is familiar with this feeling that things are not as they should be. That you have not been successful enough, that your relationships are not satisfactory enough, that you don't have the things you want. Chronic dissatisfaction that makes you envy the outside world, while being disappointed with yourself. Pop culture, advertisements and social networks only make things worse. They keep reminding you that aim for something other than the "job of your dreams" is a failure, that you must live great things all the time, that you have to be conventionally attractive, have a lot of friends, and find a soul mate, and that the others already have it all and are really happy.

And of course, a wide range personal development products suggests that everything is your fault, for not working hard enough on yourself. For the past two decades, researchers started to study how we can counter these emotions. The field of positive psychology has emerged, the study of what makes that life is worth living. At the same time, cognitive behavioral therapy was developed to change negative feelings.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

"Why do some people are happier and more satisfied than others? "

"And can we apply what they do well to the rest of us? " In this post we want to talk from one of the best predictors how happy people are, how easy it is to make friends, and their ability to get through difficult times. An antidote to dissatisfaction, so to speak. Gratitude. Even though "gratitude" may sound like to yet another mode of personal development, put forward by people using hashtags, what we know now is based on a body of scientific work and studies.

 We have included them in the description. The word "gratitude" can mean very different things for different people in different contexts. It's just as much a character trait, a feeling, virtue and behavior. You can feel grateful to someone who has done something for you, towards an unpredictable event like the weather, or even towards nature or destiny. And all of this is programmed in our body.

1: How Gratitude Connects Us with each other

The predecessor of gratitude is probably reciprocity. It evolved as a biological signal who motivated animals to exchange things for their mutual benefits and which can be found in the animal kingdom among some fish, birds or mammals, but particularly in primates. When your brain recognizes that someone does something nice for you, he reacts with gratitude to motivate you to make this gesture. This gratitude makes you take care of others, and the others take care of you. It was important because, at the same time as the human brain became better at reading emotions, selfish individuals have been exposed and ducked.

 It has become an evolutionary advantage get along with others and build lasting relationships. For example, if you were hungry and someone else showed you where to find delicious berries, you felt gratitude to him, and born the desire to give it back in the future, a way of being sociable. When you returned them, they felt gratitude to you. This brought our ancestors closer and forge bonds and friendships. So the first forms of gratitude were biological mechanisms who pushed our behavior towards cooperation, which allowed humans to dominate the Earth. But with time, gratitude has become much more just a push to be fair.

2: The Consequences of Gratitude 

Scientists have found that gratitude stimulates brain areas involved in feelings of reward, in the formation of social bonds, and in interpreting the intentions of others. It also makes it easier memorizing and recalling positive memories. And that's not all, gratitude fights directly negative emotions and characters like lust or social comparison, narcissism, cynicism and materialism. Consequently, grateful people, no matter why, tend to be happier and more satisfied. They have better relationships and more facilities to make friends, They sleep better, are less likely to suffer from depression, addictions or burn-outs and better manage traumatic events.

 In a way, gratitude decreases the chances of falling into one of the psychological traps that modern life has in store for you. For example, gratitude against significantly the tendency to forget and minimizes positive events. If you work long and hard for something, actually getting it may seem silly and meaningless. You can feel emotionally returned to where you started and try to reach the next big goal, looking for that satisfaction instead of being satisfied with yourself.Or imagine being alone and wanting to have more friends. You probably know someone or even several people who want to hang out with you, but you may have the sensation that it’s not enough, that you are a loser and feel bad about yourself. So you could decline the invitations to go out and become even more alone.

If you feel grateful towards your relationships instead, you could accept invitations or even take the initiative. The more you take the risk of opening up, the more likely you are to strengthen your relationships and meet new people. In the best case, gratitude can trigger a virtuous circle: positive feelings lead more sociable behavior, which leads to more good social experiences, which creates more positive feelings. It is a common phenomenon after going through serious difficulties, like chemotherapy for example. Life may seem wonderful once a crisis has passed.

The smallest things can be sources of intense joy, whether it's the opportunity to taste, just sit in the sun or chat with a friend. Objectively, your life is the same or even slightly worse than before but your brain compares your current experiences with the time when life was bad and reacts with gratitude. So in a nutshell, gratitude refocuses your attention on the good things you have, and the consequences of this change are better feelings, and more positive experiences. Even though it's great to know these things, is there a way to benefit more?

 3: How to Make Your Brain More Recognizing?

The ability to feel more or less gratitude is not distributed fairly. You have what is known like the "trait of gratitude" who determines how much you are able to feel it. It depends on your genetic heritage, your personality and your culture. This discovery made that scientists wondered if they could create exercises that change your "gratitude trait" and lead to more happiness. Let's start with important details. We don't know exactly yet how much gratitude can be trained and how long the effects last.

There is no magic pill for happiness.

Life is complicated. Some days you feel to have control over yourself, and, at other times, it seems to you that this is not the case. And it doesn't matter. So sometimes chasing happiness can make you feel even sadder if you put too much pressure on yourself. Gratitude should not be seen either as a solution to depression or as a substitute for professional help. It can only be part of the puzzle, it is not the solution to the puzzle itself. The simplest gratitude exercise, with the most solid research behind is keeping a gratitude journal. This consists of sitting down for a few minutes one to three times a week and write five to ten things for which you are grateful. It may sound weird at first, so just start.

Can you be thankful for little things? 

Like how great coffee is, or that someone was nice to you. Can you appreciate something that someone else did for you? Can you think about things or people that you would miss if they weren't there anymore and be thankful may they be present in your life? We're all different, so you will know what will work for you. And that's all ! It almost seems insulting. Things shouldn't be that simple. But in many studies, participants reported more happiness and higher satisfaction in life in general after performing this exercise for a few weeks. And that's not all, studies have found changes in brain activity a few months after they finished.

Practicing gratitude can be a real way to reprogram yourself.

This research shows that your emotions are not fixed. Ultimately, the way you see life is a representation of what you believe of it. If you attack your core beliefs about yourself and your life, you can change your thoughts and feelings, which automatically changes your behavior. It’s kind of mind blowing as simple as personal reflection could bypass the functioning of our brain to combat dissatisfaction. And if that is not a reason to be more optimistic, what is it?

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