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Negative thoughts literally create negative change within our brains. And the more negatively we think, the more negative thought will grow, and our perceptions become skewed to believe that the world is a purely negative place.

In a recent study, researchers from Indiana University, led by Prathik Kini found 43 subjects who were dealing with anxiety and depression. They were assigned with the task of writing a letter to thanks people in their lives and then were asked to do a brain scan three months later. While they were being scanned, they were told to imagine that they had been given a large sum of money.

When asked if they wanted to donate the funds to charity in order to show gratitude, the ones who decided to donate had a different pattern of brain activity than those who did not. However, the best part was, “The participants who’d completed the gratitude task months earlier not only reported feeling more gratefulness two weeks after the task than members of the control group, but also, months later, showed more gratitude-related brain activity in the scanner.

The researchers described these ‘profound’ and ‘long-lasting’ neural effects as ‘particularly noteworthy,’ explained psychology write Christian Jarret.

And these finding suggest that the more we express and exercise gratitude, the more able our brain is to adapt to a positive attitude. And Jarret says, “The more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy its psychological benefits.”