Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

How Gratitude And Prayer Effects Our Brains

Gratitude – the art of being content and thankful for ones life – prayer and meditation, are all concepts that can often seem abstract for us in our daily lives. We might think that ministers and pastors pray a lot, yoga teachers or monks meditate, but what about those of us living in the ‘real world’?

Sarah Boyd

Recently there have been many studies done that reveal the effect of gratitude, prayer and meditation on our brains. These studies have brought a more concrete understanding to people’s individual experiences.

1. Prayer helps our brain to focus for the day: one of the primary brain areas that becomes active during prayer, is the frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain that relates to focus, judgement and problem solving.

2. Gratitude, prayer and meditation increases physical and mental health: studies by Dr Andrew Newberg show that meditating and worshiping daily for 12mins reduces stress and anxiety, and delays the diseases of ageing.

Another study done by Dr Robert Emmons on gratitude,  found that the group of people that were regularly using a gratitude journal felt better about their lives, were 25% happier, had fewer health complaints & exercised 1.5hrs more than those not using a gratitude journal.

3. Prayer is about personal connection: one particular study looked a brain imaging scans while individuals were praying. Interestingly they found that it wasn’t the parts of the brain linked to abstract concepts that became active. When we pray, the parts of our brains that light up are the same ones that light up when we relate to other human beings.

So its clear that these practices are good for us, but how do we relate them to our daily lives?

A Challenge for you = start a gratitude/prayer tradition in your home or team at work. 

Here are some ideas:

1. At dinner time, talking with your family about 3 things that they are grateful for today.

2. Start a gratitude journal: write down 5 things daily.

3. Take 5mins the mornings to pray: even if this is while your shower or drive to work (just don’t close your eyes!).

4. Create a gratitude jar: every time something good happens, write it down & put it in the jar. At the end of the year you open it and read through it together.

5. At weekly team meetings list 5 things everyone is grateful for.

6. Write a message or handwritten note to someone you appreciate in your life & tell them why.

The Ultimate Challenge: one particular activity that has been found to boost personal happiness significantly is to think of an individual from your past or present that has impacted you significantly. Write them a letter expressing the impact they’ve made on you. Then try to visit them in person and read the letter to them. For most people this appreciation leads to tears and huge feelings of happiness and appreciation.

Whatever it looks like for you – small changes do make a big difference!

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.