How to practice gratitude regularly

As a doctor, I’ve helped to care for a lot of sufferers and households whose lives have been turned the other way up by severe sicknesses and accidents. Within the throes of such catastrophes, it may be troublesome to discover trigger for something however lament. But Thanksgiving presents us with a possibility to develop one of many healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits—that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Gratitude’s advantages

Analysis reveals that grateful individuals have a tendency to be healthy and happy. They exhibit decrease ranges of stress and melancholy, cope higher with adversity and sleep higher. They have a tendency to be happier and extra glad with life. Even their partners have a tendency to be extra content material with their relationships.


Maybe once we are extra targeted on the nice issues we get pleasure from in life, now we have extra to stay for and have a tendency to take higher care of ourselves and one another.

When researchers requested individuals to mirror on the previous week and write about issues that both irritated them or about which they felt grateful, these tasked with recalling good things have been extra optimistic, felt higher about their lives and truly visited their physicians much less.

It’s no shock that receiving thanks makes individuals happier, however so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that requested contributors to write and ship thank-you notes discovered giant will increase in reported ranges of happiness, a profit that lasted for a complete month.

Philosophical roots

One of many biggest minds in Western historical past, the Greek thinker Aristotle, argued that we turn into what we habitually do. By altering our habits, we are able to turn into extra grateful human beings.

If we spend our days ruminating on all that has gone poorly and the way darkish the prospects for the longer term seem, we are able to suppose ourselves into distress and resentment.

However we are able to additionally mould ourselves into the type of people that search out, acknowledge and have a good time all that now we have to be thankful for.

This isn’t to say that anybody ought to turn into a Pollyanna, ceaselessly reciting the mantra from
Voltaire’s “Candide,” “All is for one of the best on this, one of the best of all attainable worlds.” There are injustices to be righted and wounds to be healed, and ignoring them would characterize a lapse of ethical accountability.


However causes to make the world a greater place ought to by no means blind us to the various good issues it already affords. How can we be compassionate and beneficiant if we’re fixated on deficiency? This explains why the nice Roman statesman Cicero known as gratitude not solely the best of virtues however the “parent” of all of them.

Spiritual roots

Gratitude is deeply embedded in many non secular traditions. In Judaism, the primary phrases of the morning prayer could possibly be translated, “I thank you.” One other saying addresses the query, “Who’s wealthy?” with this reply: “Those who rejoice in what they have.”

From a Christian perspective, too, gratitude and thanksgiving are very important. Earlier than Jesus shares his final meal along with his disciples, he gives thanks. So very important part of Christian life is gratitude that creator and critic G.K. Chesterton calls it “the highest form of thought.”

Gratitude additionally performs a vital function in Islam. The fifty fifth chapter of the Quran enumerates all of the issues human beings have to be thankful for – the Solar, Moon, clouds, rain, air, grass, animals, crops, rivers and oceans – after which asks, “How can a sensible person be anything but thankful to God?”

Different traditions additionally stress the significance of thankfulness. Hindu festivals celebrate blessings and offer thanks for them. In Buddhism, gratitude develops persistence and serves as an antidote to greed, the corrosive sense that we by no means have sufficient.

Roots even in struggling

In his 1994 ebook, “A Whole New Life,” the Duke College English professor Reynolds Price describes how his battle with a spinal wire tumor that left him partially paralyzed additionally taught him a fantastic deal about what it means to actually stay.

After surgical procedure, Worth describes “a sort of surprised beatitude.” With time, although diminished in some ways by his tumor and its remedy, he learns to pay nearer consideration to the world round him and people who populate it.

Reflecting on the change in his writing, Worth notes that his books differ in some ways from these he penned as a youthful man. Even his handwriting, he says, “seems to be little or no like that of the person he was on the time of his analysis.”

“Cranky as it’s, it’s taller, extra legible, and with extra air and stride. And it comes down the arm of a grateful man.”

A brush with dying can open our eyes. A few of us emerge with a deepened appreciation for the preciousness of every day, a clearer sense of our actual priorities and a renewed dedication to celebrating life. Briefly, we are able to turn into extra grateful, and extra alive, than ever.

Working towards gratitude

When it comes to practising gratitude, one lure to keep away from is finding happiness in issues that make us really feel higher off—or just higher—than others. In my opinion, such pondering can foster envy and jealousy.

There are marvelous respects during which we’re equally blessed—the identical Solar shines down upon every of us, all of us start every day with the identical 24 hours, and every of us enjoys the free use of probably the most complicated and highly effective assets within the universe, the human mind.


A lot in our tradition appears aimed to domesticate an angle of deficiency—for instance, most adverts goal to make us suppose that to discover happiness we should buy something. But many of the greatest issues in life—the fantastic thing about nature, dialog, and love—are free.

There are a lot of methods to domesticate a disposition of thankfulness. One is to make a behavior of giving thanks regularly—originally of the day, at meals and the like, and at day’s finish.

Likewise, holidays, weeks, seasons, and years may be punctuated with thanks—grateful prayer or meditation, writing thank-you notes, maintaining a gratitude journal, and consciously searching for out the blessings in conditions as they come up.

Gratitude can turn into a lifestyle, and by creating the easy behavior of counting our blessings, we are able to improve the diploma to which we’re really blessed.

Richard Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Drugs, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University