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#Gratitude A Key Characteristic of #Happiness

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which – depending on the context – means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for something that we get, whether tangible or intangible. It is the acknowledgement of something good in our lives and that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside of us. As a result, gratitude helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Why does gratitude make us happier?

Gratitude helps us thwart hedonic adaptation. Hedonic adaptation is illustrated by our remarkable capacity rapidly to adjust to any new circumstance or event. This is extremely adaptive when the new event is unpleasant, but not when a new event is positive. So, when you gain something good in your life –a romantic partner, a genial office mate, recovery from illness, a brand-new car – there is an immediate boost in happiness and contentment.
Unfortunately, because of hedonic adaptation, that boost is usually short-lived. As I’ve argued earlier, adaptation to all things positive is essentially the enemy of happiness, and one of the keys to becoming happier lies in combating its effects, which gratitude does quite nicely. By preventing people from taking the good things in their lives for granted – from adapting to their positive life circumstances – the practice of gratitude can directly counteract the effects of hedonic adaptation.

What are the benefits of gratitude?
The benefits of practicing gratitude have been documented in multiple studies. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude.
The combined efforts of their studies and of others show that practicing gratitude improves five areas of our lives, and that each of these five areas has a positive impact on the other areas so that after practicing gratitude for a few months you can expect your happiness to increase by as much as 10%. This is equivalent to the happiness you would get if you were to double your income, and it is so much easier to accomplish.
Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and gratitude as a discipline protects us from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.

gratitude benefits

How long before you realize the benefits?
We know it takes time to change the way our minds work but practicing gratitude daily for just one month will see a 4% growth in well-being. After 3 months you should be 8% happier and after 6 months you should reach 10%. The longer you practice gratitude the easier it will become to self-generate feelings of gratitude and happiness on command.

What does neuroscience say?
The Upward Spiral by neuroscientist Alex Korb Phd says the following about gratitude.
The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.
Since low dopamine is linked to both depression and anxiety, the experience of gratitude may give you a dopamine boost and help counter a tendency toward these conditions.

One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think 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.
It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

Gratitude engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which in effect increases serotonin and produces feelings of peace and calm. Research from the Institute of HeartMath, a nonprofit institution in Palo Alto, California, also links positive feelings to a smoother, more ordered rhythm of heartbeats, which helps the cardiovascular system function more efficiently and is better for overall health.
So when you think about something or someone you appreciate, and experience the feelings that come with these thoughts, it not only helps you feel good, but also builds up reserves so you are able to respond more effectively to stressful circumstances

The Oxytocin hormone is a major player in physical bonding. Levels shoot up whenever you hug a loved one, engage in sex, or breast-feed. Various studies have shown that being more appreciative of a romantic partner strengthens the relationship. And oxytocin plays a role in the stronger bonds that form when partners express gratitude, according to a study that appeared online in January 2014 in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

This gratitude-oxytocin link contributes to a sense of community and belonging—a fundamental human need that, if not fulfilled, can undermine mental health.

How to build the habit of gratitude?
Take five minutes a day to write down three things you are grateful for. You can use the futuressecured.com app to store your entries. It may be something that happened recently or in the past. Reflect on the event and the person or circumstances that made the event possible. Feel the emotion that you experienced during the event. If a person contributed to the event write them a thank-you card, give them a call or plan a visit. Verbalizing your gratitude to the contributors will enhance the benefits of gratitude. If you are no longer in contact with the person you should write them a card anyway, the expression of gratitude is key!
Once a week take a few minutes to read over some of your entries.

Take a walk in a beautiful garden or natural setting Focus on feeling grateful for the fresh air and water, the natural beauty of a flower, the peace that the ocean, lakes, or mountains give you, or the shade of a tree

As you sit down to dinner at night, think about the people who helped this food get on your table. This may include the farmer who grew the food, the workers who picked the crops, the drivers who transported it, the person who earned money to pay for the food, and so on.

Think about how you can live a life that conveys gratitude to the planet for all that we have. Don’t overuse water or electricity, recycle, buy sustainable products, donate to charity, and volunteer to help the needy, work in an animal shelter, or clean up a natural area. Get involved in your community. Living responsibly and doing acts of service should help you feel good about your life and more aware of your connection to other living things.


Need some feel-good dope?

Remember how cool the internet was when it first gained popularity? We were blown away by the pure genius of the technology, so what if it took an hour to download a 3MB song, we had the dope and every time we went onto the web we buzzed! Then came broadband and dial-up just didn’t make the cut anymore. Instead of the high we got from simply being connected, we became frustrated and stressed out as we raced to meet our deadlines. Everything inside us screamed that it was time to upgrade, time to get rid of the cursed dial-up.
So what exactly is the shelf life of a new technology? Or rather, what is the shelf life of the joy we feel toward something, someone, anything! It seems that in all things, it is the chemistry going on in our heads that determine how we feel toward something, and the chemical that sends us on the high is no other than Dopamine. Dopamine is a lot more than the just the brains reward system, it is closely associated with movement, addiction and much more.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, one of those chemicals that are responsible for transmitting signals in between the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain. A Neurotransmitter release does not “cause” feelings. Neurotransmitter release is one level of description (a very low level) for understanding what is going on in the brain. Feelings and actions are another (higher) level of description. Neurotransmitter release doesn’t cause a feeling (or vice versa), it is the feeling!
In the 1990s, Wolfram Schultz and colleagues recorded that an increase in the firing of these dopamine neurons is a sign that more dopamine is being released in the brain. He did an experiment where he switched on a light before delivering juice to a pair of monkeys. Initially, the dopamine cells responded to the juice, but over time, as the animal began to understand that juice always followed lights, the dopamine response went away, even though the animals continued to gulp the juice down. Then, when the researchers unexpectedly stopped the flow of juice, dopamine decreased.
It seems the brain continuously makes predictions and compares outcomes with those predictions. These expectations (predictions) have a distinct impact on the amount of dopamine released when the event actually occurs. Where there is an element of surprise more dopamine is released, whereas if we expected a particular outcome then less dopamine is released!
As mentioned earlier Dopamine is commonly associated with “unexpected reward.” Dopamine though – as shown by Schultz’ experiment – is the mechanism by which the brain rewires itself to take new information into account when selecting actions. A surprising reward is cause for updating the brain’s goal state values and action priorities. However once the brain’s model of the environment has been updated, the reward isn’t surprising anymore, and the transient dopamine release goes away.
With this is mind, it seems Dopamine is more accurately viewed as a mechanism of motivation than “feeling good.” It’s not that dopamine causes motivation, it’s that dopamine release is the mechanism underlying action prioritization, which is the basis of motivation.
What you are “motivated to do” is whatever the action-generating part of your brain thinks is highest priority. This can be in conflict with your conceptual model of self, in which case you find yourself feeling “compelled” to do things that you don’t “want” to do (compulsion) or “wanting” to do something that goes against your own values and goals (addiction).
The important thing to note is that Dopamine doesn’t change the pleasure (or lack thereof) involved with a behavior, just how much we want to do it. For example, rats that have been artificially depleted of dopamine simply won’t eat, but when force fed, they make facial expressions which suggest they actually enjoy it. Similarly, increasing dopamine makes rats crave sweet rewards more, but doesn’t change how much they actually like them. Even if you don’t like something at all you can end up wanting to do it if it causes some kind of consistent dopamine release.
Studies on roulette players have recorded as much activity in the nucleus accumbens when punters lose money with a miserable near-miss as when they have an enjoyable win. In this case, dopamine seems not to be signaling pleasure but indicating how close you got to the reward and encouraging another attempt. This works well when success depends on skill but falsely compels us in games of chance.
Studies confirm the motivation-dopamine link in a number of interesting ways. Behavioral neuroscientist John Salamone confirmed the link in an animal study on rats who were given the choice of one pile of food or another pile of food twice the size but behind a small fence. The rats with lowered levels of dopamine almost always took the easy way out, choosing the small pile instead of jumping the fence for greater reward.
In another study, a team of Vanderbilt scientists mapped the brains of “go-getters” and “slackers” and found that those willing to work hard for rewards had higher dopamine levels in the striatum and prefrontal cortex — two areas known to impact motivation and reward. Among slackers, dopamine was present in the anterior insula, an area of the brain that is involved in emotion and risk perception.
So now we have maintained that Dopamine is more than just a rewards system. We don’t release it when we obtain something that satisfies us, but the neurotransmitter actually acts before that, and actually encourages us to act in order to achieve. The level of dopamine depends on individuals, so some people are more persistent than others to achieve a goal.
With this in mind we should seek ways to increase our Dopamine levels so that we can stay motivated and keep achieving. Unfortunately Dopamine in the brain is organic and cannot be supplemented by food or meds.
Luckily though, all we have to do is train our brain. Whether it’s important to get the broadband or to rather save the subscription in order to visit the Serangeti Plains, reaching a new goal will put our pleasure centers into party mode.
Here are some ways to increase your Dopamine levels
1. Make a To-Do List
When you finish a task, dopamine increases, regardless of the size of the task. Make a list at the beginning of each day or week of things that need done, and check them off as you go. Physically checking a task off of a to-do list is satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels. The sense of accomplishment provides a reward feeling, producing more dopamine in the brain.
2. Get Creative
Getting your creative juices flowing is a great way to naturally increase your potential for feeling good, achieving goals and becoming inspired. When writers, painters, musicians, dancers and other artists get into their creative mode, they become hyper-focused, entering a state referred to as flow. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows a person to achieve flow state. Creative thinking, coming up with ideas and creating something unique will increase your sense of accomplishment and signal your reward center, allowing dopamine to increase.
3. Exercise
While the physical benefits of exercise are well-known, the list of mental benefits associated with being active are just as important. Exercise helps to relieve stress and increase productivity. It also boosts dopamine levels. Exercise increases multiple neurotransmitters like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. The good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon to feel the effects! Hiking, riding a bike or going for a jog will keep your body active and produce the results you’re looking for.
4. Keep a Streak Going
Continuing to check off points on a list can keep your dopamine levels up! Start a calendar and write down anything continuous that you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to work out Monday through Friday every week, cook healthy meals every Tuesday and Thursday, or finish a new book by the end of each week. Every time you put a check mark next to your goal, you feel a sense of accomplishment that increases dopamine levels in the brain. Keeping a streak going without missing a day is a way to feel proud of yourself, stay productive, and ensure that the dopamine levels in your brain are healthy!
5. Listen to Music
Listening to music that you love increases dopamine levels. Scientists say that listening to your favorite jams has the same effect on the brain as eating your favorite food or watching your favorite television show. Identifying with the lyrics or really feeling the music can make you feel good, deep down to your core. The increase in dopamine is more temporary, but it can provide a quick mood-boost when needed
Goals don’t have to be big. Start with your daily activities as goals. Did you make it through the morning without coffee? FANTASTIC! Acknowledge the achievement.
If a particular task seems too overwhelming to begin, break it into smaller goals, and trust that dopamine will build up as you achieve your way through to the end.
Other hobbies that are known to increase dopamine include bird watching, jigsaw puzzling and treasure hunting.


5 Types of Soulmates You’ll Meet and Love At Least Once In Your Life.

Soul Mate

The Buddhists say if you meet someone and your heart pounds, your hands shake, your knees go weak, that is not the one! When you meet your ‘soul mate’ you’ll feel calm, no anxiety, no agitation.

Almost all of us have met many different types of soul mates in our life. Some of them come in solely for the purpose of teaching us something, some to break apart our life and redirect us to somewhere different and some who pass us for the briefest of moments, yet tug on our hearts as if we’ve known them a lifetime. Each type will help you reveal the layers of your spirit, and guide you towards finding the ultimate soulmate…

The Friend Soulmate
Sometimes we meet a person and just from that moment we behave like we have known them our entire life, even if we’ve only known them a few minutes.

You could talk to this person for hours on end and never get bored. These types of soulmates actually know you better than you know yourself, which is why they are extremely important in your life. They “get you” in ways nobody else does and help you find your way through all of life’s trials and triumphs.

The Affair Soulmate
These people don’t stay in our lives forever, but they come in as a lover and typically take on the form of a really beautiful relationship for a period of time. These soulmates are meant to be in our lives for a certain period of time to teach us about ourselves and other important lessons about our life road.

Soulmates like this often stay on good terms and become friends after their relationship ends, both realizing and acknowledging how much the other person taught them. Therefore that “soul connection” lasts a lifetime even though the romantic love portion of the dynamic fades.

The Stranger Soulmate
This is always a very brief encounter with somebody you don’t know. It might be the person you sat next to on a flight for a few hours, someone you meet and spend time with one evening at a party, or as brief as a stranger whose eyes yours meet on the street and you exchange just a few words with.

If you believe in past lives, it’s typically because you are recognizing them as someone who truly is from your past.
The exchange is brief but intimate. They normally say something that you need to hear in that moment, validate something that you’ve been feeling or push you in a direction you need to go but are afraid. You know in the depths of your soul the encounter meant something even though you never see them again.

The Teacher Soulmate
Also referred to as Karmic Soulmates. A significant other, a friend, a family member, and even an enemy can be a teacher soul. This relationship can be romantic but it does not last. No matter how strong the attraction is, teacher souls do not make good romantic partners as they will never see you as their equal.

Teacher soulmates bring out the best and worst parts in you. They are around to teach a lesson, and what you fail to learn from one karmic soulmate, you will tend to seek from another.

More than often, teacher souls start as friends and end as near-strangers when their work is done. When that happens it’s best to accept the wisdom gained from the teacher soul and move on. Understanding why they appeared will help you appreciate them for what they were — a lesson, and nothing more.

Divine Love Soulmate
This is the soulmate that every one of us desires to have. And if we’re lucky enough, we will meet them and live out the rest of our days on this earth together.

They encompass all of the above… the familiarity, the feeling of having known them for an entire lifetime moments after meeting them, the intense bond and connection that never goes away, the deep friendship, and the extraordinary, enchanted, deep-seated love.

This article has been republished from Limitless Minds

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