The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has affected every person’s life worldwide. Daily routines have been turned upside down and nobody can escape it. As of this writing, there have been more than 250,000 deaths in the US alone. It has been a national and worldwide nightmare in every regard. Even those who have not lost loved ones are under tremendous stress.
America had been enduring a stress plague for decades before the pandemic. Stress was already a comorbidity factor for the six most frequent causes of death.¹ Now those factors make all Americans more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the third wave crosses the country. People everywhere need a way to cope with the newest challenge ahead for the winter of 2020.
Fortunately, there is a medically proven method (see footnotes) that successfully relieves stress without the use of prescription drugs. It’s freely available to everyone right now. The effects of the treatment are long lasting, and there are no negative side effects. The miracle method is called gratitude.
Two human energy domains can break the stress cycle: the heart and brain domains. When the energy of those two domains are joined together in sincere gratitude practice, science has proven it effective to eliminate stress for months at a time.
Skeptics will of course scoff at the idea above. That’s what skeptics do, but science is not on their side. If they choose to be among the millions of Americans who spend $190 billion annually2 for doctor visits that are largely ineffective, so be it.
It is obligatory to warn skeptics about drug prescriptions for stress relief such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). That class of pharmaceutical comes with multiple side effects and may alter the brain’s natural ability to form neural networks. Memory loss and sexual dysfunction are also widely reported after long-term use.
By comparison with SSRIs, both religious practitioners and scientific experts endorse gratitude practice as effective and entirely safe. Moreover, the brain is apparently wired to extend gratitude practice by drawing a practitioner’s attention to similar objects of appreciation.
It’s our choice to either surrender to the myth of a flawed brain or to cure it with our own power.
How Gratitude Increases Brain Coherence
Gratitude releases the pleasure chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Those compounds relax the sympathetic nervous system and stimulate a palpable sense of well-being within minutes.3
Gratitude is an elevated state of mind serving to reboot thought processes and the nervous system. It’s like a clean slate to reevaluate and focus on the asset side of life’s account ledger.
A short list of other benefits of gratitude from studies published by Positive Psychology include:4
- Increases happiness and positive mood
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Regulates stress
- Better physical health
- Better sleep
- Less fatigue
- Greater resiliency
Once attentional priorities are shifted, our brains help us find more reasons to be grateful. The cingulate gyrus is hardwired to do so.5 Participants in gratitude studies maintained improved function and moods for months after the conclusion of investigations.6
A real-world example of the above is the purchase of a new car. A person’s attention to their new car is noted by the cingulate gyrus, and the proud new car owner suddenly spots many cars just like it on the road. The cars were always there. It is our attention and frequent conversations about the car that signaled the cingulate gyrus to find more cars of the same type.
If you lose your keys frequently, it may be a good idea to keep a picture of them handy to shorten your next search. It really works.
The exercises below from Harvard University are designed to make gratitude practice a cultivated habit through practice:7
- Thank You Notes — Sending gratitude notes to other people in your life is mutually rewarding. Don’t forget to send one to yourself on occasion.
- Send Mental Gratitude — Focus on someone you appreciate and send gratitude mentally. Your brain and subconscious won’t know the difference, and quantum physics indicates the targeted person may get the message.
- Gratitude Journal — Writing your affirmations and reasons for gratitude reinforce the practice and strengthen the brain’s neural connections via the tactile sense. It’s great habit where you can see your progress too.
- Pray — Prayer has been proven effective in multiple studies to improve internal thought coherence.
- Meditation — Supercharge your ability to focus on the present and remain mindful in all situations with meditation.
It takes 66 days on average to make a new behavior an automatic habit, but it can take as few as 18 or as many as 254 days.
Any competent neurologist today will confirm the human capacity to rewire the brain. The term “neuroplasticity” was first coined in 1948, and by the 1970’s the brain was discovered to be a dynamic system capable of rewiring itself. By the early 2000’s neurosurgeons were able to grow functional neurons in the lab from stem cells.
There are currently no known limits to neuronal plasticity or neural growth. The phrase “changing my mind” is quite literal when ardently pursued over time. The medical evidence is overwhelming and not in dispute.
Any healthy person can rewire their brain. Repetition and dedication are needed to affect long-term change, but the payoffs are enormous and continual. Every new habit is a modification of the brain.
Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” The release of pleasure hormones and subsequent relaxation of the nervous system provides the opportunity to transcend the stressed mindset entirely. That transcendence is a window of opportunity to break the stress cycle and to solve any problem.
When the final history of 2020 is written, it will undoubtedly include a death rate far higher than that directly attributed to the pandemic. Americans are most vulnerable because our stress levels were already off the charts compared to nations worldwide. We had the highest percentage of comorbidities as a result. History will note how many additional deaths were caused by those comorbidities alone. It’s time to deal with our stress head on. It’s free, easy and healthy.
This video with gratitude affirmations will help readers get started with well-constructed statements. It also shows how some of the least noticed aspects of nature work together to create the stage upon which our lives are free to unfold according to our desires. We all have much to live for.
- Deborah S. Hartz-Seeley, “Chronic Stress Is Linked to the Six Leading Causes of Death,” miamiherald (Miami Herald, March 21, 2014), https://www.miamiherald.com/living/article1961770.html.
- “Workplace Stress Responsible For Up To $190B In Annual U.S. Healthcare Costs.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, HBS Working Knowledge. February 2, 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2015/01/26/workplace-stress-responsible-for-up-to-190-billion-in-annual-u-s-heathcare-costs/.
- “The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety & Grief,” PositivePsychology.com, May 12, 2020, https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/.
- “14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science,” PositivePsychology.com, May 20, 2020, https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/.
- Dr. C. George Boeree, “The Emotional Nervous System,” The Limbic System, 2009, https://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/limbicsystem.html.
- Christian Jarrett, “How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain,” The Cut (The Cut, January 7, 2016), https://www.thecut.com/2016/01/how-expressing-gratitude-change-your-brain.html.
- Harvard Health Publishing, “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier,” Harvard Health, accessed June 28, 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.