Some Physical Effects of Gratitude

In our quest for ways to use gratitude as a tool for planetary transformation, we asked some friends to see what the hard and soft science was concerning gratitude. We were both surprised and very pleased with what was reported to us.

This is what our friend, Kieran Cooley, a Naturopathic Doctor and Research Fellow at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine found.

Emotions have a very real physical effect. Imagine you’re angry or upset; your muscles may become tighter, your blood pressure may be higher, or you may be short tempered with people around you and remember events in a more negative way. Or you may have difficulty experiencing other emotions and could toss and turn at night as a result of you being angry or upset.

Similarly, the feeling and act of expressing gratitude also has tangible effects on everything from powerful neurotransmitters that govern your mood, memories and bodily functions to your physical appearance.

We have a chemical (or peptide) for love, anger, frustration, excitement, gratitude and every range of emotions we experience. These peptides are the building blocks for our neurotransmitters – think of them as messengers within the brain. The messengers then carry the signal to other parts of the brain and body to create hormones, which have far reaching effects on physical and emotional functions. Each of our cells has receptor site for these emotional chemicals and the peptides fit in like a key to a lock. So whenever your brain experiences small changes in its chemistry, this can have larger effects in all areas of your body – essentially each and every cell can be turned on, or off based on your emotions.

Research studies show that the state of chemicals in your brain and body, as well as the areas of your brain that are functioning are different when you are experiencing gratitude – very similar to that when you are perpetually happy, motivated and satisfied. You are more relaxed and confident, your cells are receiving all of the right signals to function optimally, you’re primed to be at the top of your game.

Even though your brain is not a muscle, in some respects it does function like one. When it is used in a certain way (expressing gratitude), it reacts in a predictable way (an increase in peptides or neurotransmitters) and sets the stage for how you will be able to react in the future (you will react positively, or your brain will learn to create that same positive chemical state in your brain). In essence, when given opportunities to express gratitude, your brain is going through training – the brain state of chemicals, neurotransmitters and molecules of emotion builds. We are literally training ourselves to be a different people, able to function and react differently, all because of the cascade of events from an emotion.

So what can gratitude do? The impact of visualizing grateful experiences has been shown to decrease pain in people struggling with chronic pain. It can normalize the function of your heart, and has been shown to prevent recurrence of a stroke in cardiac patients. It can even help patients with Parkinson’s disease – a condition that is typically treated with pharmaceutical drugs that increase the neurotransmitter dopamine.

We are unabashedly in favor of people expressing gratitude (big surprise). When we started we just knew it felt good. Now we are beginning to understand why.

This article was adapted from The Letters that Moved the World, by Cori Ashley & Dr. Jason Loken. It is a book dedicated to the idea that gratitude can be used as a tool for transforming the consciousness of the planet. For more on gratitude and the book, visit

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