Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

Gratitude, gratefulness or thankfulness is a feeling experienced by a person as an appreciation or a positive response shown when receiving favors, gifts, kindness or any type of generosity. It can also involve being aware of all the good things in your life and taking the time to be thankful for them.

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Gratitude – An Overview

Gratitude is a kind of a feeling or an emotion which is similar to appreciation. Being grateful is more than simply saying thank you. It encompasses a strong positive affirmation and sense of well-being. A 2010 study defines gratitude as the “appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself.” Here the person experiences a general state of thankfulness and appreciation. The study associated gratefulness with an attitude, a habit, an emotion, a moral virtue, a personality trait or even as a coping response. A 2017 study 1 stated that a person may also be thankful for those instances when they recognize they have received a benefit and can attribute that benefit to another person. However, other sources of research reserve the definition to intangible sources like nature or God or even preferring to use the term on a broader perspective. This represents grateful feelings which do not necessarily have any source like being thankful for a good sleep at night. Thus, a person may also feel grateful for non-tangible things like appreciation of nature, being thankful to God or simply being grateful for having a happy and healthy life.

An individual may be grateful for a number of things in his/her life, like receiving a gift, receiving a favor, being thankful for someone else’s kindness and or simply an affirmation for all the good and positive things in life. In relation to these sources, the person may realize that their feeling of thankfulness is associated with external factors which helped them achieve the goodness in their lives or simply be in a general state of thankfulness for intangible things in their life.

Gratitude And Well Being

A 2010 study found that the majority of research done on gratitude showed a positive association between gratefulness and well being. The study stated that “experiencing gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation tends to foster positive feelings, which in turn, contribute to one’s overall sense of well being.” Another 2020 study 2 found out that grateful people are less depressed, less stressed and happier than others. They are also more satisfied with their social relationships and life, in general. They have also been found to have higher levels of control in social environments, purpose in life, personal growth and self acceptance. They have more ways of coping with life’s difficulties, are more likely to take positive help from others, take positive feedback from experiences in life and also analyze problems in a positive manner. A 2004 study 3 also found that grateful people are likely to sleep better and also have better relationships with their partners. Research 4 also shows that grateful people are more likely to indulge in better eating habits and take better care of themselves, leading to better physical health.

Psychological Perspectives On Gratitude

In psychology, gratitude is associated strongly and consistently with happiness. It helps people feel more positive 5 emotions all the more, improve their overall health, relish life’s good experiences, build meaningful relationships and also learn how to deal with adversity. One study 6 showed that people who expressed gratefulness immediately showed an increase in their positive emotions. In another 2003 study, it was found that people who were grateful were happier and more likely to have better life satisfaction in general. Studies on exercises in it also showed that “expressing or recalling gratitude elicited greater feelings of being grateful, moved, uplifted or connected” in individuals. Thus, we can see that gratefulness has a strong impact on people’s well-being. A lot of exercises have also been created in order to learn how to practice gratefulness, which we shall discuss in the later part of this article.

Science Of Gratitude

Expressing gratitude has been known to promote positive and happier mindsets and reduce our levels of stress. The way this works was scientifically measured in a 2017 study 7 , where it was found that the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex was activated more in grateful people. These parts of the brain are involved in rewarding feelings, interpersonal bonding, positive social interactions, learning and decision making and an ability to understand what people are feeling or thinking. The study also found out that practicing gratefulness can lead to the increase in certain neurochemicals in our brain like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of happiness, satisfaction and closeness. Thus, when we are grateful or practice gratitude, these crucial neurotransmitters are released in our brain, which enhances our mood and makes us feel happy from the inside.

Benefits Of Being Grateful

Benefits of gratitude

There are several benefits of gratefulness and some of them are explained below:

1. Improves psychological health

Numerous studies have shown that grateful people are more likely to be happier in their lives than others. Being grateful allows us to become nicer, more appreciative and more social. Thus, it helps us to deepen our existing social relationships, make new connections with people and also improve our social skills.

Read More About Brain Health Here

2. Improves emotional health

Studies 8 have shown that when we experience gratitude, it tends to foster positive feelings in us which in turn contributes to our overall sense of well-being. It increases our overall life satisfaction, reduces signs of depression and also helps to prevent anxiety.

3. Improves physical health

A 2010 study found that grateful people are more physically healthy than others. Studies have also shown that being grateful can reduce symptoms of diseases, improve quality of sleep, decrease pain and even improve heart health.

4. Helps build personality

People who are grateful are more likely to be more optimistic than others. They also are less materialistic and tend to enjoy the simple things in life. It also allows us to focus on areas that need improving and strengthens our will power 9.

5. Boosts self-esteem

Gratitude prevents us from engaging in social comparison, and makes us appreciative of what other people have achieved. This in turn, helps to build up our self-esteem 10 .

How To Practice Gratitude

How To Practice Gratitude

There are various ways in which we can start cultivating gratefulness for our own good.

1. Keeping a journal

One way to start practicing gratitude instantly is to start maintaining a journal 11 . This can be a daily practice to remind yourself of all the gifts, benefits, graces and good things in life which you enjoy and are thankful for. When you set aside time daily to recall your moments of thankfulness or appreciation, even with the minutest of events, ordinary things, personal attributes or the valued people in your life, you get to interweave an effective life skill of gratefulness.

2. Practicing mindfulness

Research 12 has shown that mindfulness meditation for at least 5 minutes a day can have positive effects on your brain and rewire it to be more grateful naturally. It takes only 8 weeks for the effects to start showing and patterns in your brain being changed. It leads to better happiness and makes us more empathetic.

3. Lend a helping hand to others

For some people, the key to being grateful can be giving back to others. It has also been shown that volunteering 13 for helping others increases our own sense of well being and makes us naturally inclined to be more grateful.

4. Expressing yourself

When you express your appreciation or thankfulness to someone, not only are you brightening up their day, but also increasing your own levels of happiness and gratitude in the long run. Expressing your feelings and emotions to others also allows us to be more expressive in nature, which prevents any bad or negative thoughts or feelings to harbour inside us.

5. Spend more time loved ones

Spending time with your friends, family and your loved ones will help you to grow closer to them and also strengthen your relationship with them. This will also make it easy for you to practice being grateful in front of people that you care about.

Key Takeaway

Being grateful for all the little things in life takes practice and can significantly improve various parts and aspects of our life. The key to being grateful is to start practicing gratitude. Start today and you can instantly feel and reap the numerous benefits it has to offer.

Gratitude At A Glance

  1. Gratitude is a kind of a feeling or an emotion which is similar to appreciation.
  2. Grateful people are more likely to indulge in better eating habits and take better care of themselves, leading to better physical health.
  3. In psychology, gratitude is associated strongly and consistently with happiness.
  4. Expressing gratitude has been known to promote positive and happier mindsets and reduce our levels of stress.
  5. The key to being grateful is to start practicing gratitude.
👇 References:
  1. Layous, K., Sweeny, K., Armenta, C., Na, S., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2017). The proximal experience of gratitude. PloS one, 12(7), e0179123. []
  2. Cregg, D.R., Cheavens, J.S. Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. J Happiness Stud 22, 413–445 (2021). []
  3. Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of psychosomatic research, 66(1), 43–48. []
  4. Fritz, M. M., Armenta, C. N., Walsh, L. C., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2019). Gratitude facilitates healthy eating behavior in adolescents and young adults. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 81, 4-14. []
  5. Unanue, W., Gomez Mella, M. E., Cortez, D. A., Bravo, D., Araya-Véliz, C., Unanue, J., & Van Den Broeck, A. (2019). The Reciprocal Relationship Between Gratitude and Life Satisfaction: Evidence From Two Longitudinal Field Studies. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2480. []
  6. Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 31(5), 431-451. []
  7. Kyeong, S., Kim, J., Kim, D. J., Kim, H. E., & Kim, J. J. (2017). Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling. Scientific reports, 7(1), 5058. []
  8. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township), 7(11), 18–22. []
  9. Kelly J. D., 4th (2016). Your Best Life: Breaking the Cycle: The Power of Gratitude. Clinical orthopaedics and related research, 474(12), 2594–2597. []
  10. Jans-Beken L. (2021). A Perspective on Mature Gratitude as a Way of Coping With COVID-19. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 632911. []
  11. Toly, V. B., Blanchette, J. E., Musil, C. M., & Zauszniewski, J. A. (2016). Journaling as reinforcement for the resourcefulness training intervention in mothers of technology-dependent children. Applied nursing research : ANR, 32, 269–274. []
  12. Kyeong, S., Kim, J., Kim, D. J., Kim, H. E., & Kim, J. J. (2017). Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling. Scientific reports, 7(1), 5058. []
  13. Tabassum, F., Mohan, J., & Smith, P. (2016). Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ open, 6(8), e011327. []
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