Practicing Gratefulness In-order to Transform Your Life and Brain

I recently attended a fascinating conference discussing the neuroplasticity of the brain. Ok, I know, things suddenly got boring when I tossed around the big fancy medical term. However, despite the boring medical term, the concept was pretty interesting! Our brains are geared to have a negative bias and they always try to predict the future. Therefore, we tend to see negative or possible risks everywhere. Think about how things were back in the cave man days; we needed to know if there was a big scary animal coming at us. These risks are no longer with us, but our brain continues to see risk and negativity and it is causing anxiety and depression! The good news is neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means we can grow new neural pathways to start more positive automatic thoughts. Our experiences actually change our brains! This means that we need to intentionally interrupt and change our negative cycles. Okay, you are probably thinking, “but how?!?” Mindfulness! Mindfulness means we have a pause between the stimulus and response- meaning we don’t immediately react after something happens but pause to enjoy the moment. This pause allows us to actually change neural pathways!

Before we talk about mindfulness techniques, let’s talk about how to make the most out of our experiences! First off, know that our brain learns through repetition! That means that this doesn’t work the first time, or even the second or third times. We need to make a life style change to ensure the effectiveness. Read below of some fun mindfulness activities to, you know, just change your brain. Yup, you have the power!

1.     Deep breathing- Try square breathing. 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. Observe your thoughts without participating in them during this time. Start small with 2 minutes and slowly add to it.

2.     Present moment focus- Try to focus on the present moment using all your senses. Think about how your body is feeling, what you see, smell, and hear, taste. Any activity that uses all the senses is ideal- a bubble bath with hot water, aroma soaps, and candles can do wonders!

3.     Yoga- have you read the research to support the benefits of yoga? If not, it might be time to start a new hobby!

4.     Positive journaling- this is a time to focus on the positive of each day. Ya know, just intentionally rewiring the brain!

During this Thanksgiving week, make sure you practice gratefulness. Not only will it help you enjoy your experiences more, but it actually rewires the brain. Let’s make the most of this week, y’all!

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting and read more about her services