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The Surprising Benefits of Gratitude, by Crystal Williamson, LCSW

Over the last several years, a trend has appeared in social media where many people take time each day in November to write a post expressing gratitude for something in their lives.  This popular trend makes use of a strategy that therapists have recommended to their clients for many years.  You may be surprised to hear that experiencing and expressing gratitude has positive effects on both your mental health and physical health. 

Participating in some form of daily gratitude exercise, such as writing down things you are grateful for or sending letters of gratitude to people in your life, has shown in research studies to improve symptoms of depression and increase overall happiness with lasting effects.  Many therapists incorporate gratitude exercises into their work with clients by suggesting a journal or notepad where the client can take a few minutes each day to write down something for which they are grateful.

Gratitude has also been linked to greater patience and better decision making.  If you are making gratitude a part of your regular routine, you may find that you are able to make wiser choices with your money and your time.   Regular feelings of gratitude for the things you already have may make it easier to say no to the instant gratification of buying something new.  Recognizing that you are grateful for your loved ones may influence you to spend more quality time with them.

An attitude of gratitude can also have a tremendous effect on your relationships.  Expressing and receiving gratitude in daily interactions with a spouse has been connected to increases in relationship connection and satisfaction.  Telling your spouse or other people in your life “thank you” for the big and small things that they do can be a springboard for more positive interactions in the relationship. 

Gratitude has physical benefits, too, like helping you sleep better.  A study done in the U.K. found that people who showed traits of gratitude had longer and better quality sleep than those who didn’t.  These people also had more positive thoughts before going to sleep and this seemed to have an effect.  So, the old song that said, “Count your blessings instead of sheep,” seems to be onto something.  If you want to start a daily routine of gratitude, it may be most beneficial to do this at night just before bed.  Other studies have shown that gratitude can reduce pain and even decrease blood pressure!  

As Christians, we learn that God wants us to show thanks as well.  The Bible repeats the command over and over, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT) Through the Psalms, God states that “giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” (Psalm 50:23 NLT).  There are many reasons for us to express our gratitude to God. We thank Him for what He has done for us and how He has helped us in our lives.  We can thank Him for his creation that we see all around us.  We thank Him for the blessings in our lives.  Even Jesus set the example of taking time to thank God for His provision, and we often take time before we eat to pray and thank God for the food we have been blessed to have.  We can thank Him for our own life.  We give thanks for our salvation that was given to us as a gift because of the great sacrifice that Jesus made in His death.  Gratitude is part of our daily worship experience whether we are singing songs or praying silently.  The apostle Paul encourages us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)  When we have an attitude of thankfulness in our relationship with God, we are recognizing that all that we have truly belonged to Him first and have been given to us as gifts to be used for the glory of God.

Social media is not required to make expressions of gratitude part of your daily routine, although some people may find that it keeps them more accountable if they are participating in this exercise along with other friends.  If you would rather keep your thoughts private, you can keep a small journal near your bed and write down a grateful thought or prayer each night.  Or others may do fine to just take a moment before they go to sleep to quietly think about one or two things they are thankful for from that day.  If you are grateful for people in your life, or things that you recognize that they do to help you, make a point to thank them and tell them how grateful you are for them as you see opportunities each day.  Use your words, send a text, or write an old-fashioned letter and mail it.  The point is to find a way to incorporate a routine of gratitude that will work for you and then stick with it for a few weeks or longer, and watch to see how it positively impacts your mood and life.


Algoe, S., Gable, S., & Maisel, N. (2010). It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(2), June 2010, 217-233.

Dickens, L., & DeSteno, D. (2016). The grateful are patient: Heightened daily gratitude is associated with attenuated temporal discounting. Emotion, 16(4), 421-425.

Ducharme, J. (2017). 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude. Time, November 22, 2017.

Gander, F., Proyer, R., Willibald, R., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., 2012.

Wong, J. & Brown, J. (2017). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Greater Good Magazine, June 2017.

Wood, A., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Adkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), January 2009, 43-48.


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