I recently started reading a book called “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”, written by psychiatrist, Daniel G. Amen. Dr. Amen works at Amen clinics with people who suffer from many different types of mental illnesses. These illnesses can range from anger, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and even ADD/ADHD. In his book, he reflects on his previous clients, and how his particular regimen for helping them has worked in each case.
In one chapter, he mentions a study he assisted in with fellow colleague, Noelle Nelson. Ms. Nelson was working on a book titled: The Power of Appreciation. In the study, Dr. Amen had taken what are known as SPECT scans of the woman’s brain during certain stages:
- After thirty minutes of meditating on all things she was thankful for
- After reflecting on major fears in her life several days later
Pictured above are images of the SPECT scans from the study. The left side of the image shows the brain while focusing on grateful and positive thoughts. The right side is the brain fixating on worries and dismay. The image shows that, according to his studies, when our brains are concentrated on worries, fears, or other negative thoughts, it decreases activity in the temporal lobe and cerebellum. These areas of the brain are important for processing new information, balance, problem solving, and coordination. They also affects mood, memory, and temper control. These are problems which are associated with forms of dark thoughts and violence, but mostly depression and memory problems.
Dr. Amen reveals that thinking negatively affects the brain in a negative way, but shows that positive thinking helps our brains to become healthier.
According to Dr. Amen, writing five things you are grateful for each day helps to solidify positive thoughts in your brain. Research has found that people who express gratitude on a regular basis have a better sense of well being, are more confident, and and make more progress towards goals they have set for themselves. Medical professionals who partake in this exercise have been shown to be more proficient at making diagnoses for their patients.
In order to be physically and emotionally healthy, it is up to us to take the first steps. So, take them, and work towards becoming a better you. Try it!