Being grateful: How to cultivate your gratitude practice

In this article we will be looking in a bit more detail at what gratitude is and what its benefits are. How being grateful can help our relationships will also be explored and how to make gratitude easy to incorporate into our busy and already crammed lives. You will find that it can be really easy to make a few changes to have your own gratitude practice.

What is gratitude? 

We have all heard about gratitude being a good thing to cultivate. Gratitude arises from helping others. There are various definitions of gratitude. It is considered a habitual focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life. Sanson and Sanson (2010) described gratitude as being a state of appreciating what is meaningful and valuable to yourself and being thankful. Gratitude can be described as the quality of being thankful and appreciating.

How can being grateful help? 

Research has found a strong association between gratitude and well-being(Wood et al, 2010). This suggests that making the effort to be grateful and having a regular gratitude practice is positive for us. Gratitude has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of depression in populations that have a chronic illness (Sirois and Wood, 2017).

The majority of research shows an association between gratitude and well-being. 

Gratitude helps people focus on what they have rather than looking at all the things they don’t have. It can make people feel happier as they are and thinking beyond just material things. Materialism reduces people’s ability to appreciate the good in life and this can contribute to the development of negative emotions such as envy, low self-esteem and anxiety.

Polack and McCullough (2006) commented that materialism and materialistic strivings have been suggested as a cause for unhappiness whereas the counter option of gratitude has been implicated with happiness and well-being. Building on values and teaching families the benefits of gratitude and focussing on this rather than acquiring physical materialistic gains. Getting families involved and teaching children about the benefits of charity. The best way of doing this is showing by demonstration. Such as giving to goodwill, helping out at a soup kitchen. This can make being grateful highly visible and the norm for children.

Lin (2015) found that higher levels of gratitude were linked to greater levels of self-esteem. This can be great for ourselves and for our children to include them in family gratitude practices.

Being grateful and utilising a gratitude practice can make you maintain a sense of balance and this can, in turn, help with managing stress better. This has to be a positive in today’s hectic climate where we feel pulled by so many responsibilities and in so many directions whether that is in the home, work, family and socially.

Making a list of list of things you are grateful for has been shown in research to be associated with increased life satisfaction.

In his book, Emmons (2007) discusses the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal whereby people were encouraged to write down things they were grateful for. It was found that individuals who practiced gratitude on a consistent basis reported better physical health (such as lower blood pressure, stronger immune system), and psychological health (felt more positive, experienced joy, pleasure, and happiness). 

Gratitude can help your relationships

Gratitude has been shown in research to improve relationships as it enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people have been shown to behave in a more prosocial manner when people may be behaving in a manner that is not kind.

People who kept a gratitude journal felt more socially connected to others and were more likely to help others and were seen as more helpful than their significant others. You might find that if you are keeping a gratitude practice you might be nicer to family members and they appreciate this and this makes them feel good, overall the relationship will be better.

Techniques to practice and incorporate into daily life to increase gratitude

The following are some methods of using gratitude that can be easy to include in your routines and some options to think about that are more lifestyle changes.

  • Writing a thank you note to friend’s, family or even a work colleague and this does not have to be time-consuming (it can take a couple of minutes)
  • You can thank someone mentally
  • Spending time with family and friends and taking the time to listen intently can be an act of gratitude and of service for others.
  • When undertaking a gratitude practice it is helpful to think about how it feels to be grateful and this can help your brain and body identify this state more easily
  • Keeping a gratitude journal can be a popular option
  • Counting your blessings can also be incorporated in your life and can be done over the dinner table with you family with this can be with your loved ones such as the extended family or friends and neighbours.
  • Everyday being thankful for three things and why
  • Gratitude rituals: some families say grace before meals.
  • It can be helpful to notice something new you are grateful for daily and making this specific can make this practice more meaningful.
  • As with all good habits we are trying to develop, it can be helpful to choose the same time of day in order to maintain consistency.
  • Volunteering at local charities and other goodwill organisations can be a good way to start.
  • Meditation: using meditation can bring you into the present moment and focussing on and appreciating what is here: this can be a brief daily practice ranging from a few minutes to longer.

To summarise, we have looked at the key definitions of what gratitude is and how the research has shown keeping a gratitude practice can help in a number of different ways including mood, well-being, and increasing self-esteem. Being grateful can also help our social relationships. We have also looked at a number of different strategies to cultivate a gratitude practice that can take anywhere from a few minutes or longer if you feel you would like to commit to this practice.

Do you think that developing a gratitude practice would be helpful for your family? Can you see your kids benefiting from this? What kind of gratitude practices have you used in the past and what kind of impact have they had?


Wood, A.M., Froh, J. J., and Geraghty, A. W.(2010). 30, (7). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, (7): 890-905.

Lin, C. (2015). Self-esteem mediates the relationship between dispositional gratitude and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 87: 30-34.

Sirois, F. and Wood, A. (2017). Gratitude uniquely predicts lower depression in chronic illness populations: A longitudinal study of inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis. Health Psychology, 36 (2), 122-132.

Emmons, Robert. (2007). “Thanks! How the new science of gratitude can make you happier”. Houghton Mifflin.

Sanson, R. A. & Sanson, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: The benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry, 7, (11):

Polack, E. L. & McCullough (2006). Is gratitude an alternative to materialism? Journal of happiness studies,7: 343.


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