I recently saw the movie ‘Pay it forward’ again, and it reminded me of a gift of kindness I had received once from a stranger. I had met with an accident and fainted on the road-side. When I came around, I was surrounded by a lot of concerned people. They helped me sit up, gave me water to drink, asked how I was feeling, and slowly the crowd dispersed. But one lady stayed by me. She insisted on taking me to a clinic and got me first-aid. She waited until I boarded my ride back home. I was touched by her concern and was thankful for her support. Even though I took that route many times later, I never saw her again.

I know that this incident made me notice the good samaritans that we have around us all the time. I remain grateful to this person for their help that day and also for enhancing my appreciation of the kindness and generosity in the world at large.

With the stress and anxiety at a peak due to the global pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of all that is good in life. But these are the times when we need to take a few moments diligently to acknowledge our blessings in life. While the systematic study of gratitude by psychologists began around the year 2000, there is a lot of scientific evidence to prove that gratitude changes the mind. 

Brain activity when gratitude is expressed/receivedImpact
Dopamine and serotonin are releasedEnhanced mood and feelings of happiness
– Motivation to exercise and manage health
– Reduced pain
The limbic system is activated  Generates kindness and generosity
Toxic emotions are released
Better sleep
Reduction in cortisolBetter cardiac functioning
More resilience to emotional setbacks and negative experiences
Increase in the neural modulation of the prefrontal cortexLesser negative emotions (shame, guilt, violence)
Lesser depression and anxiety
Impact of expressing and receiving gratitude on brain

It is clear that practicing gratitude, does not just feel good, it has physical, social, and psychological benefits too.

Today when we need to practice physical distancing to protect ourselves and others, the social emotion of gratitude is ever more important. Acknowledging, how we have been supported by others, reinforces our connection as humans and takes the edge off the mandate of physical distancing.

If gratitude practice is not a habit for you currently, try writing 3 things/people you are grateful to and why at the end of every day. Review your notes after 30 days and do share your experience with me.