What is Gratitude?
World Leading scientific expert on gratitude, Robert Emmons, states that gratitude has two key components.

First,  “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.

The second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves” … We acknowledge that other people, or even higher powers if you’re of a spiritual mindset, gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.


  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
    "she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support"

So, why do we need it?
The Greater Good Science Center outlined several benefits of gratitude in a paper titled, “The Science of Gratitude” (2018).

  • Increased happiness and positive mood
  • More satisfaction with life
  • Less materialistic
  • Less likely to experience burnout
  • Better physical health
  • Better sleep
  • Less fatigue
  • Lower levels of cellular inflammation
  • Greater resiliency
  • Encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom

As well, when a person expresses or receives gratitude, dopamine releases, thus making a connection between the behavior and feeling good. The more a person practices gratitude, the more often dopamine releases.
Those all seem like really important reasons for gratitude, especially in this day and age where we are bombarded with negative and fear based messages.

The science of gratitude
In a study by Wong & Brown (2017), showing gratitude is not merely saying, “thank you.” it affects us mentally and physically. 

Their study involved assigning students into three groups:

Group one wrote a letter of gratitude to another person every week for three weeks. 
Group two wrote about their thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. 
Group three didn’t write anything. 

All three groups received counseling services. Group one reported “significantly better mental health” at the 4 and 12 weeks check ins after the intervention ended. Their findings also suggest that a combined gratitude practice/counseling approach is more beneficial than counseling alone.

The researchers analyzed their findings to figure out how gratitude has these effects. They determined that gratitude does four things:

  1. Gratitude disconnects us from toxic, negative emotions and the ruminating that often accompanies them. Writing a letter “shifts our attention” so that our focus is on positive emotions.
  2. Expressing gratitude helps us even if we don’t explicitly share it with someone. We’re happier and more satisfied with life because we completed the exercise.
  3. The positive effects of gratitude writing compound like interest. You might not notice the benefit of a daily or weekly practice, but after several weeks and months, you will.
  4. A gratitude practice trains the brain to be more in tune with experiencing gratitude — a positive plus a positive, equal more positives.

In another study by Bartlett & DeSteno (2006) they found there is a positive relationship between kind, helpful behavior, and feeling grateful. 

Throughout three studies they determined,

  • Gratitude facilitates helping behavior,
  • Grateful people help the people who helped them (benefactors) and strangers similarly, and
  • Reminding people who helped them (a benefactor) still increased helping behavior exhibited toward strangers. 

An eminent scholar in this field, Robert Emmons (2010), makes the argument that gratitude allows a person to:

  • celebrate the present
  • block toxic emotions (envy, resentment, regret, depression)
  • be more stress-resilient, and
  • strengthen social ties and self-worth.

Advantages of Keeping a Daily Gratitude Journal
One of the most popular gratitude exercises is the daily gratitude journal. One study found that materialism among adolescents decreased when they implemented this practice. Participants also donated 60% more money to charity 

In a second study, they found that a weekly gratitude letter was associated with better eating habits. The teens in this study also experienced fewer negative emotions during the intervention period, which spanned four weeks.

Gratitude journaling has also been proven to reduce inflammation in people who have experienced Stage B, asymptomatic heart failure.

10 Things You Can Do to Realize Gratitude Benefits

  1. Journal about things, people, or situations for which you are grateful. Consider including negative situations like avoiding an accident, for instance.
  2. Think about someone for whom you are grateful
  3. Write a letter of gratitude to someone for whom you are thankful. Consider sending it or giving it to them in person.
  4. Meditate on gratitude (present moment awareness).
  5. Do the “Count Your Blessings” exercise (at the end of the day, write down three things for which you were grateful)
  6. Practice saying “thank you” in a real and meaningful way. Be specific. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to read this article and leave a comment. I enjoy reading your contributions because they broaden my understanding of this subject.”
  7. Write thank you notes. Some might say this is a lost art. Challenge yourself to write one hand-written note every week for one month.
  8. Recall a negative event. Doing this helps you appreciate your current situation.
  9. Create visual reminders to practice gratitude. Sticky notes, notifications, and people are great for this.
  10. Focus on the good that others have done on your behalf.

How will you start your gratitude practice?

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