The Power of Gratitude

The Power of Gratitude

Written by: Gaby Spicer, LPC-A

Practicing gratitude can seem trivial and almost cliché. One can quickly thank a stranger for opening the door or offer thanks to a friend for receiving a gift. There is a difference between what can be termed as an immediate way of expressing thankfulness and a more profound experience of showing gratitude as a way of life. Practicing gratitude has many benefits affecting oneself and others around us.

Regardless of where they may find themselves today, most people have an innate desire to feel a sense of happiness and well-being. Gratitude has the power to affect our brains and bring healing. It positively impacts our affect by increasing happiness, positive emotions, and reframing mechanisms, while also decreasing depressive symptoms. Gratitude is linked to increased altruistic tendencies, acts of kindness, and reciprocity. People who practice gratitude have better physical health and engage in healthy activities, and are more willing to seek health help. Gratitude positively impacts the nature of relationship dynamics and overall quality of life.

The definition of gratitude is complex. One definition of gratitude considers it to be a two-step process in which there is an affirmation of goodness, where a person identifies that which is good while at the same time not denying the negative. Secondly, there is an acknowledgment of the source of goodness. This source is outside of oneself.

Let’s take a closer look at this definition. The first part affirms that which is good. Our brains naturally will migrate toward that which is harmful. When we practice gratitude, we are intentionally noticing areas in our lives we are grateful for, such as the sun shining on our face when it is cold outside, the feel of a cozy bed to sleep on at night, the ability to inhale and exhale breath, a kind gesture of a stranger. By focusing on what you are thankful for, you are augmenting that reality in your life. Furthermore, this practice helps the brain integrate both the positive and negative. It doesn’t negate that which is hard and negative, but it allows the brain to acknowledge that both exist.

One way to deepen the experience of gratitude is by practicing somatic gratitude. Somatic awareness focuses on the physiological sensations present in the body. By focusing on the internal physical sensations associated with the word “gratitude,” one can activate positive feelings aimed to provide self-regulation. For some, feeling emotion is a challenging task. Feeling grateful is more accessible than other, more difficult emotions, thus promoting being connected to one’s feelings and allowing oneself to feel them. It allows for an integration of experience at a basic level, where we not only connect with our bodies but also expand the experience of gratitude beyond our affect and cognition.

Somatic gratitude is allowing yourself to notice how feeling grateful feels in your body. It serves as a form of grounding to the experience of gratefulness. Embodied gratitude can be a helpful practice as a way of treatment in the mental health field, alleviating symptoms of depression and providing internal resources for greater resilience.

The second part of this definition involves acknowledging the source of goodness, which is other than self. This source can be a higher power, another person, nature, etc. It taps into the reality of who we are as relational human beings and the power of reciprocity and kindness. Gratitude serves as a bridge of relational connection. People who practice gratitude feel better, are more apt to be kind to others around them, and are more forgiving and helpful. In these ways, being grateful connects us to others. When a person experiences a thoughtful gesture or receives a gift, it promotes feeling thankful, igniting a desire to pay it forward.

Thankfulness needs to be cultivated. It requires an intentional commitment to noticing what you are grateful for. By creating time and space for this practice, you can make a deeper connection with others and gain a different attitude and perspective in life. You may ask yourself, “How do I start?”

Here are a few ways to tend to this practice:

  1. List three to five things you are grateful for each day for a week or two. Go back and notice how that impacted your week.
  2. Write a letter of gratitude to someone, letting them know what you are thankful for.
  3. Go for a walk and notice your surroundings; savor what you enjoy about each thing you see.
  4. Take a mental note of what it would be like to have the absence of certain good things in your life at the moment. Reflect on how your life would be without them and why you are grateful for them.
  5. Keep a journal of gratitude.
  6. Create an art piece that reflects what you are thankful for. If it involves a person, offer it as a gift.
  7. Set a time of day that will be your “gratitude time”—whether in the morning, on a drive, or before going to bed—where you intentionally let yourself feel what you are grateful for during that day.
  8. Notice how practicing gratitude has affected you after a month.
  9. Think of one thing you are grateful for and let yourself notice how you experience feeling thankful for that one thing in your body. Notice any physical sensations, from the top of your head to your feet, that accompany feeling grateful.
  10. Communicate to others via text or verbally why you are grateful for them in your life.


Allen, S. (2018). The science of gratitude. University of California Berkeley.

Emmons, R. (January 19, 2023). The science and spirit of gratefulness. YouTube.

Kuhfuß, M., Maldei, T., Hetmanek, A., & Baumann, N. (2021). Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: A scoping literature review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1).

Nour, A. (2023). The scientific effects of gratitude: a review. Journal of Positive Psychology and Well-being, 7(3), 192–205.

Smith, J. A., Newman, K., Marsh, J., & Keltner, D. (2020). The gratitude project: How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good. New Harbinger Publications.

Greater Good Science Center, University of California Berkeley. (2024). Greater good magazine: Science-based insights for a meaningful life.