The Power of Gratitude |

The Power of Gratitude

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It’s all too easy to focus on the things we don’t have. As human beings, we’re hardwired always to be striving toward the next goal or milestone, leaving little time to stop and take stock of all that’s already good in our lives. However, there’s science to suggest that taking regular, intentional time to pause and reflect on everything we’re grateful for is incredibly beneficial.

“Gratitude is the practice of being thankful or taking time to think about what you are appreciative of in your life,” explains Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, licensed clinical psychologist and media advisor at the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Practicing gratitude requires us to slow down and reflect on the good in our lives, which Lira de la Rosa says can offer plenty of health benefits. “Research shows that those who practice gratitude have lower levels of stress and anxiety,” he explains. “Gratitude can also help us feel more connected to ourselves and others and help us take a different perspective.”

During the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving, we’re bombarded with messages about the importance of gratitude. While it’s true that gratitude can be immensely helpful during the holidays, especially for those navigating difficult times or strained relationships with family members, Lira de la Rosa says harnessing the power of gratitude year-round is key. “If we take time to think about what we are grateful for more often, we are more likely to slow down and practice being mindful, which can yield wonderful benefits for our mental health and well-being in the long term,” he says.

The Science Behind Gratitude

When we feel grateful, we feel good. Why is that? “When we feel gratitude, it boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin and activates the brain stem to produce dopamine,” explains psychotherapist Dr. Lee Phillips. “Dopamine is the chemical that makes us feel pleasure and grateful thoughts.” Meaning the more grateful we feel, the better we feel.

Woman Exercising Outside With Dopamine Molecule in the Background

Studies have shown that regularly practicing gratitude lowers depression, decreases stress and anxiety, and even helps improve heart health. Regularly practicing gratitude helps rewire the way we think and perceive things. “Our brain is always changing based on our thoughts and behaviors,” explains Mike Laauwe, founder of “Regularly expressing gratitude creates new neural pathways, making your brain more attuned to positivity. Over time, this rewiring and consistent gratitude practices lead to a more optimistic perspective.”

As Lee explains, this mindset shift also leads us to better care of ourselves. Proper sleep hygiene, keeping up with doctor’s appointments, eating well, exercising, and expressing kindness and love to others are all results of regular gratitude. “Overall, the benefits of gratitude act as a motivator for accomplishing your goals in life,” he says.

3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Research shows that just 15 minutes of gratitude, five days per week, can make a difference in a person’s mental well-being. Here are a few easy ways to start practicing gratitude.

Start Journaling. Spend a few minutes at the start or end of each day writing down what you’re grateful for. “This may include being grateful for a friendship or a relationship, grateful for having access to housing, or being grateful for another day of life,” says Lira de la Rosa.

Practice Verbal Affirmations. “Saying aloud what you’re grateful for can reinforce the feeling and help it sink in deeper,” says Laauwe. Try to be mindful of the things you’re grateful for during the day, and say them out loud to reflect on them.

Take a Mindfulness Walk. Sometimes, it can be hard to identify things we’re grateful for in our hectic lives. Taking a walk through your neighborhood, a nearby park, or somewhere you enjoy spending time can help spark gratitude. “Take time to pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to the trees, the buildings, etc.,” says Lira de la Rosa. “This can be a more active way of practicing gratitude and help us appreciate the area where you live.”

Two Women On A Walk Outside

The Impact Of Gratitude

Laura Haver, an author, coach, and mother of two, has greatly benefitted from the power of gratitude. “Gratitude has had an enormous effect on my life, my family’s lives, my clients’ lives, and now my readers’ lives too,” she says. To share this practice with her kids, she created the game “Gratitude Detectives,” one of many games she shares in her book, Play Together: Games & Activities for the Whole Family to Boost Creativity, Connection & Mindfulness. “We’ve been playing gratitude detectives every night before bed for years, so we really have to get creative sometimes to come up with new things to be grateful for,” she says. “We often end up laughing at the random and silly things we share. For example, the other night, we were grateful for clean sheets, water bottles, and birds.”

For Lira de la Rosa, practicing gratitude helps him show up and be more present in his personal and professional relationships. “In my role as a psychologist and as a professor, I take time to think about all the wonderful things that are happening in my life,” he says. “Practicing gratitude on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis helps me stay grounded and rooted. It helps me remember that despite the stress and anxiety of everyday life, I feel privileged and connected to a larger calling of helping others.”

Practicing Gratitude Can Change Your Life — Here’s How

Gratitude may seem obvious and even cheesy at times. But with so much evidence on the mental and physical benefits, Haver and other experts say it’s worth practicing. “It’s a free and fast process that you can even do on your own, so why not give it a go and see what difference it can make in your life?” says Haver.

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