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Posted by Daniel Amen, MD

More than just spending time with family and friends while sharing food, Thanksgiving is about gratitude. And though the holiday only comes once a year, expressing gratitude regularly is a brain-healthy practice that can change your brain and change your life all year long!

Scientific research reveals that being consistently grateful can have a positive effect on your health.

Did you know that practicing gratitude causes real changes in your brain that enhance brain function and make you feel better?

Your attitude really matters!

When you bring your attention to the things in your life for which you are grateful, your brain actually works better. Brain imaging studies show that negative thought patterns change the brain in a negative way, but conversely, practicing gratitude literally helps you have a brain to be grateful for.

If you want your brain to work better, practice being grateful for the good things in your life. Here is an exercise to use:

Every day, write down five things for which you are grateful.

The act of writing helps to solidify them in your brain.

In my experience, when depressed patients do this exercise every day they get better faster. Research from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated that when people did this exercise they noticed a significant positive difference in their level of happiness in just 3 weeks.

Other researchers have found that people who express gratitude on a regular basis are healthier, more optimistic, make more progress toward their goals, have a greater sense of well-being, and are more helpful to others.

Spending time each day thinking of things for which you are grateful is an important part of a brain-healthy lifestyle.

Another simple practice that I highly recommend you do is focus EVERY DAY on your motivation for being healthy. Think about these things:

  • Why do you care about having a healthy life?
  • Why do you want a stronger mind and a more powerful brain?
  • Is your motivation to look great? … To have a lot of energy? … Is it to live a long time? … Or is it to be a role model for someone you love?

These may seem like such basic questions.

But if you don’t know the answers to these questions or don’t keep the answers in front of you every day, no amount of great information will keep you on track with the constant exposure to unhealthy options all around you.

Understanding why you care is one of the most important things you should know.

Dr. Daniel Amen is a co-founder of The Daniel Plan, physician, double-board certified psychiatrist, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, neuroscientist, and nine-time New York Times best selling author.  He is the founder and medical director of Amen Clinics in Newport Beach and San Francisco, CA; Bellevue, WA; Reston, VA; Atlanta, GA; and New York City, NY.  Dr. Amen’s extensive research and innovative approach to optimizing the brain has helped missions of people worldwide.


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