Gratitude and Changing Our Brain, by Cathy Bustos
Date:Thursday July 8, 2021
When my boy was a toddler and didn’t want to go to sleep, he would loudly proclaim that his brain was changing. Little did I know he was wise beyond his years.
We live in a world where people believe that their and others’ minds are cemented, that no matter what, your thoughts, feelings, and emotions won’t change. So we live and die by our political, religious, and moral codes and judge others that don’t subscribe to this way of thinking. I can attest to this because I have been this.
Anyone who knows me knows I tended to go to the dark side and think the worst-case scenario in every situation. I believed it, Lived it, and passed it on to others. However, in an effort to heal me and through my education, I learned that your brain could change. My son was right!
As first responders and law enforcement officers, we are exposed to the worst that life can offer. Daily death, violence, evil people, and untruthfulness are greeting us at almost every door that is opened. The difference between then and now is I dwelled in the negative. Now I thrive in the positive. I don’t pretend that life is perfect. It is far from it, but I wake up every morning grateful for something, even the smallest things. Problems, illness, inconveniences occur, but there is still ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
I don’t say this naively or while wearing rose-colored glasses; I say this because research is proving it to be true. Science has learned that changing your thoughts can indeed change your brain (Brown & Wong, 2017)! I wish I had marked the words of my toddler, but alas, I did not. I can only impart his wisdom to others. “If you feel there is hope for your situation, you are more likely to take health-enhancing steps to better your situation” (Conn, 2018, p 135). I can only impart his wisdom to others. Another sound piece of advice comes from Victor Frankl “For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer- we are challenged to change ourselves” (Frankl, 2006, p.12). In the words of Jeremy Alexander, let’s change our brains!
Brown, J. & Wong, J. (2017, June 6th). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkely.edu
Conn, S.M. (2018) Increasing Resilience in Police and Emergency Personnel: Strengthening Your Mental Armor. New York, NY, Routledge
Frankl, V. (2006). Man’s Search For Meaning. Boston, MA: Beacon Press