Health Advocate Blog

How gratitude changes you and your brain

Reflecting on gratitude for the people, opportunities and other gifts in your life doesn’t just trigger joy, but can actually change your brain, promoting better health and well-being. Whether you express your appreciation through journal writing, a letter, or a smile, integrating gratitude into your everyday life can offer the following benefits:

Boosts the feel-good hormones. In turn, the hormones prompted by gratitude activate positive feelings and are also linked to better sleep, as well as lower anxiety, depression, and everyday stress. 

Resets a bad mood. The positive emotions sparked from writing a letter of appreciation to someone, for example, can shift you away from negative emotions like resentment and envy that can make you feel sad and alone. (UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center)

Rearranges your priorities, boosting energy. Constantly focusing on pursuing what you don’t have can leave you feeling empty and diminished. Focusing on what you do have, however, can be invigorating!

Prompts you to discover sources of gratitude you’ve taken for granted. Feeling gratitude can expand to include anything that brings you joy and a sense of “feeling right in the world.” This could include the trees outside your window, the aroma of coffee in the morning, or the smile from a passing stranger!

Boosts your resilience. Reminding yourself of what you are grateful for helps youbounce back more readily from any unpleasant experiences in your everyday life.

Tips to cultivate gratitude

  • Keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down three things that you are grateful for that day.
  • Make a list of your skills, talents, values, or beliefs you use daily for which you feel grateful. Maybe it’s your creative abilities, allowing you to make art, music, or a cozy living space; your belief in the importance of helping those in need, improving the world in small or big ways; or your curiosity to explore, leading you to new opportunities and relationships.
  • Write letters/emails/texts to express appreciation
  • Increase your everyday “thank yous” and smiles