Worry and gratitude: why do Neuroscientists say that both are good for you?
We all worry and it can be good for us. We’re not talking about excessive worry which is more aptly called anxiety. We’re talking about simple day-to-day niggles and worries.
This sounds counterintuitive. In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little bit better – because at least you are doing something about your problems or perceived challenges. Worrying increases activity in your medial prefrontal cortex and as a result decreases activity in your amygdala, this process actually helps to calm your emotional center of your brain.
In short if you’re ‘wound up about something …start worrying…at least you’re doing something! Something is better than nothing.
Then take it a tiny step further and action even the smallest step towards doing something to relive the issue / problem. This small step can even be writing down the issue on a piece of paper that’s near your computer. This small ‘act’ can help you feel more in control.
Many of us have heard about the benefits of having a gratitude practice. Answer this for yourself: What am I grateful for?
From a Neuroscience perspective: gratitude can be more effective than an antidepressant in boosting your dopamine levels. In addition gratitude toward others increases activity in your social dopamine circuits, which oils the wheel of social interactions. Thereby creating a positive feedback loop in your relationships.
Another interesting perspective from Neuroscientists is that the simple act of thinking and searching for something to be grateful for (when life is tending to hand out more blows that bouquets) affects the neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increase, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. The domino effect comes into play: remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence, and with higher emotional intelligence it simply takes less effort to be grateful.
Why not keep a gratitude list on your smart phone or a small notebook on your bedside table. Start or end your day writing down three things that you are grateful for.
How about this as a parting thoughts about the value of the domino effect. Say something that you are grateful for before you go to sleep. Gratitude improves sleep. The right amount of sleep improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety. With less anxiety, planning improves and so does decision making. This in turn gives us a sense of being in control, which heightens levels of joy and enjoyment. The latter gives us a LOT to be grateful for… let another spiral of gratitude begin!