Gratitude Practice

Gratitude is more than just saying thank you. It is an appreciation for and celebration of life. We notice the little things that enrich our lives and express  appreciation for the multitude of abundances that life brings. But how do you find thankfulness when things are not going well? When we feel anxious, hurt, and/or isolated, gratitude may be the furthest thing from our minds. The practice of gratitude is key to our happiness and mental health. In a study conducted at UC Berkeley, students seeking support for mental health wrote a weekly letter of gratitude to one person. After four weeks, these students reported significantly better mental health. At 12 weeks after the study, students continued to report an increase in mental health.


Research on gratitude indicates that developing a daily practice of thankfulness improves overall mental health.  In a 2003 study conducted by Emmons & McCullough, participants were asked to focus on one of the following conditions: hassles, gratitude listing, or neutral life events. Participants then kept a record of their moods, coping & health behaviors, physical symptoms, and life appraisals. In general, participants involved in gratitude listing reported elevated well-being as well as greater optimism. If you wish to read more, Emmons provides a brief overview of research in a 2013 research article. [From our 2016 blog on Gratitude]

Why does gratitude matter?

Manners make us more likeable! When we are grateful, we express it in the form of saying thankful to people. One study found that being polite increased the likelihood of new relationships. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time with a appreciative person?

Improves physical health. A 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experienced less physical pain and were more likely to exercise and take care of themselves.

Improves psychological health. Robert Emmons, leading researcher on gratitude, has conducted a number of studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. When we are grateful, it reduces the load of emotions that can be toxic, like envy, resentment, and frustration. Gratitude redirects our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have.

Increases empathy and reduces aggression. We are more likely to be kind to someone when they behave poorly when we are thankful. We are even more forgiving.

Enhances sleep. A 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, shows that spending 15 minutes writing gratitude statements helped people to sleep longer and better. If you take an inventory of what enhanced your day your mindset will be one of abundance as you drift to sleep, rather than anxious.

Improves self-esteem. When we are grateful, we are less likely to compare ourselves to others. We begin to celebrate our strengths rather than focus on our weaknesses.

Increases mental strength. As we are seeing in this list, gratitude focuses the mind on what we have, even in the midst of loss. In two studies, one with Vietnam Veterans and another following the September 11th attacks, found that grateful individuals experienced less instances of post traumatic stress disorder. Grateful brains are resilient brains!

This list originally appeared on Psychology Today.

The Practice of Gratitude

  1. Let’s start journaling. This month, starting today, join us in creating a Gratitude Journal. You can use your existing journal, or get a special on. Every evening, take 5 minutes to write down 3 – 5 things for which you are thankful. You can write a simple list of key words, or write paragraphs, whatever feel natural for you. No matter what, identify 3-5 things that brought you joy, ease, or happiness during your day. Because gratitude can help you sleep better, this might be a great practice right before you go to bed.
  2. Say thank you to you! In addition to the 3 – 5 things that you are thankful for, thank yourself. What did you do today that deserved praise? Perhaps you woke up on time. Maybe you ate your vegetables. It could be something small or big. Don’t limit yourself.
  3. Say thank you more. There are many places in our daily life where we can express gratitude, that we often don’t. Even something as simple as a wave when someone lets you into traffic is an expression of gratitude. Say thank you when someone gets the door for you, or when someone move out of your way at the store. Remember to thank the people that wait on you at restaurants, retail stores, and grocery stores.

About the Author

Rose Kress

Rose Kress ERYT-500, C-IAYT, YACEP, Owner/Director of the LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, and author of Awakening Your Inner Radiance with LifeForce Yoga. She directs retreats and training programs on using LifeForce Yoga to manage your mood.

One thought on “Gratitude Practice”

  1. Michael J. Perkins Ph.D. says:

    I am very very interested.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Research Newsletter


What People Say

“I gained perspective of who I am in the world and this will change my life significantly.” — Mary Ford, artist, Southport, CT
“My patients can now have the same effects as many medications without having to actually take medication!” — Deborah Lubetkin, PSY.D, LFYP, West Caldwell, NJ
“I have gained a softer heart, more receptive mind, and tools to enrich both personal and professional aspects of my life.” – Regina Trailweaver, LICSW, clinical social worker, Hancock, VT.
“I feel profoundly transformed, both physically and emotionally. The connection between mind, body and spirit was clearly evident to me, but revealed to me through this workshop as an integrally vital link to overall health.” — Nadine Richardson, program manager at rehab agency, Monroe, CT
“My personal practice will change, as well as my yoga classes. I have a better understanding of yoga!” — Andrea Gattuso, RYT, Yoga Teacher, Hackettstown, N.J.
“A client who returned said, "When I came before, you helped me understand and get where I wanted to go. Now you show me yoga practices I use to help myself understand and get where I want to go.” — Sherry Rubin, LCSW, BCD, LFYP, Downingtown, PA
“Words do not do justice to all that I learned. This workshop changed my life!” — Jen Nolan, Teacher, Cortland, NY
“Yoga Skills for Therapists is the ideal resource for those who want to bring yoga practices into psychotherapy or healthcare. Weintraub, a leader in the field of yoga therapy, offers evidence-based, easy-to-introduce strategies for managing anxiety, improving mood, and relieving suffering. Helpful clinical insights and case examples emphasize safety, trust, and skillful adaptation to the individual, making it easy to apply the wisdom of yoga effectively in the therapeutic context.” — Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author, Yoga for Pain Relief, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy
“I have found the LFYP training to be incredibly useful in giving people specific tools to use in maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance, and further opening their intuitive abilities.” — Nancy Windheart, RYT-200, LFYP, Reiki Master, Animal communication teacher, Prescott, AZ
“I learned lots of ways to reduce the anxiety and depression of my patients and myself.” – Aviva Sinvany-Nubel, PhD, APN, CNSC, RN, psychotherapist, Bridgewater, N.J.
“I utilize the LFY techniques in both a class room setting and one-on-one environment. The skills have infused my teachings with compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” — Kat Larsen, CYT, LFYP
“My life is already changed! I will use the tools I learned in my own practice and in my work. I feel safe and seen.” — Susan Andrea Weiner, MA, teacher/expressive arts facilitator, El Cerrito, CA.
“I integrate strategies like mantra tones and pranayama, but above all I invite myself and those I teach to cultivate svadhyaya, to practice self-observation without judgment.” — Barbara Sherman, RYT 200, LFYP, Tucson, AZ
“This workshop helped me rededicate my energies and begin to work through some of the blocks I’ve felt creatively.” — Steve Mark, college professor, New Haven, CT
“I began a fantasy during the meditation exercise... almost as if I’d been there. It’s now an on-going work of fiction.” — Serian Strauss, Tanzania
“I have been reminded that I am not on this path alone, that others are sharing the journey that sometimes seems so difficult. I have also been reminded of the importance of daily practice and I will do that. The whole program has been an incredible experience for me. Thank you!” — Lorraine Plauth, retired teacher, Voorheesville, NY
“I have found the pranayama (breathing practices) especially easy to introduce in a clinical setting. Some people have benefited quickly in unexpected and transformative ways.” — Liz Brenner, LICSW, LFYP, Watertown, MA
I absolutely love this stuff! I have been using it with my clients and I am just finding it to be so incredibly helpful. There seriously something for everything. Although I am not as skilled as I hope to be someday, even at my level of training I’m finding that I am beginning to figure out what to do. It just blows my mind! - Christine Brudnicki, MS, LPC
“I have gained an incredible opening and clearing of old obstructions. I hope to return to my life and fill this opening with things I love to do and that give me joy!” — Lisa Shine, administrative assistant, Ballston Lake, NY
“I gained tools for working with my own depression and with my clients’ depressions.” — Robert Sgona, LCSW, RYT, psychotherapist, Yoga teacher, Camden, ME.
“This program changed my life in a significant way. It helped me connect with the spirit which is something you can’t get from psychotherapy and medication.” – G. W., artist, Pittsburgh, PA
“This workshop has changed so much — my self-image and my life. My own heart’s desire is 100% clear. I gained tools to help myself and others to live life fully.” — Marcia Siegel, Yoga teacher, therapist, Carlsbad, CA.
“I came hoping to learn to move past some of the obstacles blocking my creativity. Over the course of this weekend, I feel I’ve gained a certain measure of faith in myself and in my ability to change. I also had some realizations that I believe will be very helpful to me. I feel encouraged. Both the content and presentation of this program were so well-thought out that I can’t think of any way to improve it.” — Andrea Gollin, writer & editor, Miami, FL
“Giving my clients a strategy and permission to quiet their minds and rebalance the sympathetic nervous system has been very beneficial to them and in our work together.” — Sue Dilsworth, PhD, RYT 200, LFYP, Allendale, MI
Scroll to Top