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Gratitude: Thankfulness – Recognized and Expressed

As We Enter into the Thanksgiving Holidays

It is easy to forget or dismiss the power of appreciation and gratitude, as we move through our daily grind, but research clearly demonstrates their power to improve our lives.

Appreciation is the “general recognition of and attention to positive aspects of one’s life”, while Gratitude is defined as the “recognition of positive outcome from an external source, including a sense of wonder or thankfulness for the benefits received (Nelson and Lyubomirsky, 2016, pg. 1).

Personally, I think of gratitude as “thankfulness – recognized and expressed”. To be grateful for someone or something, you first have to recognize they exist and how their presence benefits you. Then you must express it, to yourself or to someone else before it truly enters into your experience. To see something and not acknowledge the benefits is not gratitude, it is simply recognition! Gratitude is comprised of mental recognition and action through expression.

Research has shown that gratitude is associated with mental health. Those who are grateful tend to experience fewer depressive symptoms (Lambet et al., 2012; Nelson & Lyubomirsky, 2016) and they report higher feelings of overall well-being (Wood et al., 2009). In fact, simply practicing gratitude, for example – by writing a letter of gratitude, listing items you are grateful for, or annotating those individuals you are grateful to – can result in improvements in well-being (Nelson & Lyubomirsky, 2016).

The more gratitude the more positivity – in sensations, thoughts, memories, and behaviors.   

Simple acts of gratitude can result in better social connections; a happier, friendlier disposition (more laughter!); and even taking nurturing care of oneself. That is right, gratitude increases the tendency to treat oneself better by exercising more (Emmons and McCullough, 2003), coping more effectively (Emmons, 2007), and moving directly toward one’s personal goals (Emmons & Mishra, 2011).

Among individuals with acute coronary syndrome, greater state gratitude for health was associated with increased physical activity (measured via accelerometer) and greater gratitude for life was associated with increased adherence to their outpatient medical plan. No expression of gratitude was associated with rehospitalizations (Legler et al., 2018).


When I think about these findings, I realize that:


– Establishing gratitude as part of my daily meditation or my daily routine can improve my sleep, mood, energy, my belief in myself, and my health.

– The holiday tradition of going around the table expressing gratitude for something or someone is the food for the soul – to accompany the food for my stomach (nutrition).


I’m going to start right now and continue this throughout the week, and next weekend and see what happens. How about you? Let’s try it and share the results with each other!

  • Today, I’m thanking for reading these articles and their reminder to be grateful!

  • I’m thankful for my family.

  • I’m grateful for my training in energy practices that are helping those who I am privileged to teach, train, and treat.

  • I’m thankful for the beautiful “funshine” in my life.



Emmons, R.A., 2007. THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Emmons, R.A., Mishra, A., 2011. Why gratitude enhances well-being: What we know, what we need to know. In: Sheldon, K., Kashdan, T., Steger, M.F. (Eds.), Designing the Future of Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 248–264.

Lambert, N.M., Fincham, F.D., Stillman, T.F., 2012. Gratitude and depressive symptoms: The role of positive reframing and positive emotion. Cognition & Emotion 26, 615–633. doi:10.1080/02699931.2011.595393.

Legler, S.R., Beale, E.E., Celano, C.M., Beach, S.R., Healy, B.C. & Huffman, J.C., 2018. State gratitude for one’s life and health after an acute coronary syndrome: Prospective associations with physical activity, medical adherence and re-hospitalizations, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2017.1414295

Nelson, K.S., & Lyubomirsky, S., Gratitude. In: Howard S. Friedman (Editor in Chief), Encyclopedia of Mental Health, 2nd edition, Vol 2, Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 2016, pp. 277-280.

Wood, A.M., Joseph, S., Maltby, J., 2009. Gratitude predicts psychological well- being above the Big Five facets. Personality and Individual Differences 46, 443–447. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.11.012.