The focus of last week's blog was on gratitude circuit... and the importance of engaging the circuit to boost our physical and emotional well-being, sleep, happiness and connection.
But what does it really mean to activate the gratitude circuit? When we engage into expression of gratitude (and research supports written forms of gratitude have more lasting effect) there are parts of our brain which get activated. One of the parts is hypothalamus...Hypothalamus in our brain is responsible for many body functions including eating, sleeping, drinking, ability to handle stress, mood, and many more... Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters produced by hypothalamus.
Dopamine is what makes us feel "good" and research has linked dopamine to higher motivation and learning. Dopamine is considered to be "reward" neurotransmitter as it is used in the reward pathway of our brain. Boost in dopamine makes us want more of it. While there are many external substances which may stimulate increase in "feel good" dopamine release (including drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine, sugars),
however gratitude is one of the natural intrinsic triggers for boost in dopamine which makes us feel happy, motivated and productive. It simply makes us feel good....and you can't but want more of it...
Dopamine remains one of the main transmitters affected by gratitude. In the future gratitude neuroscience series we will share more about other hormones and transmitters involved.