Practicing Gratitude

Overview

Gratitude is saying "thank you." But it's more than a thank-you to a friend for a favor or gift. Gratitude is saying thanks for everything that is important to you and good in your life. You are thankful for a gift, but you're also thankful to watch a sunset, do well at a sport, or to be alive. You see your life and your experiences as a gift.

Gratitude is linked to well-being. One group of three studies suggests that people who practice gratitude appear to be more optimistic, pleased with their lives, and connected to others when compared to those who reflect on daily hassles or on everyday events.footnote 1 Another study suggests that gratitude in teens is linked to feeling good about life, being optimistic, and having a good social network.footnote 2

You also might find that gratitude may help decrease anger. If you find yourself thinking about how someone has wronged you, shift your attention to someone else who has been there to support you.

Gratitude may also be linked to resilience, which is having an "inner strength" that helps you bounce back after stressful situations. The traits mentioned above, such as optimism and connection with others, are often found in people who are resilient.

How can you practice gratitude?

Practicing gratitude means saying "thanks" and appreciating what's important to you. Here are some tips that can help you get started.

  • Take time each day to reflect.
    • Spend a few minutes at the end of each day and think about, or write down, what you are grateful for that day. This could include people, events, or experiences.
  • Make time to thank people you know.
    • Call or email just to say "thank you."
    • Write a letter to express your gratitude or appreciation.
    • Write thank-you notes and say "thank you" when you receive gifts or favors.
  • Thank people you don't know.
    • Wave "thank you" when a person lets your car in during heavy traffic.
    • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about something a stranger did for you.
  • Give thanks for the abilities you have.
    • Even if you are feeling burdened by your health, think about things that you are still able to do.
  • Start a family ritual of gratitude.
    • Give thanks before a meal.
    • Share what you are grateful for before going to bed.
  • Find creative ways to give thanks.
    • Plant a garden of gratitude.
    • Take pictures of things you are grateful for.

References

Citations

  1. Emmons RA, McCullough ME (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2): 377–389.
  2. Froh JJ, et al. (2009). Gratitude and subjective well-being in early adolescence: Examining gender differences. Journal of Adolescence, 32(3): 633–650.

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health