top of page
  • Vanessa Barajas, MPH

Adopting an Attitude of Gratitude

I’ll admit some of my greatest frustrations often occur when I focus on what I don’t have and I don’t think I'm alone. Our list of wants keep us future-focused and robs us of the wonderful gifts of enjoying the present. We are bombarded with 24/7 messages telling us we must have the latest gadget, the luxury car, the perfect body, a big promotion, the ideal marriage and more. When we’re caught up with all these wants it’s so easy to forget all the things to be grateful for in our daily lives. Instead of feeling grateful we may feel entitled or envious. Before you know it we’re whining and complaining. When we don’t feel thankful we can have a hard time giving praise to our family, friends and colleagues at work.

What is gratitude? It might seem silly to go over the definition, but it’s more than just saying, “thanks”. It’s a state of being, which leads to action and fulfillment. Generally, gratitude leads to showing that appreciation to those you’re thankful for. The expression of thankfulness doesn’t have to be a gift or something extravagant, although if that’s what you’re feeling, no one’s stopping you. Rather, it could be as simple as telling someone how much you appreciate them.

Why is gratitude so important? Having an attitude of gratitude affects your physical health in more ways than you can imagine. Just think about the opposite of being thankful. What is it? Shunning the world? Loathing? Frustration? All of those things lead to anxiety and depression. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and report feeling healthier than other people. Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

In an article by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, a certified psychiatric counselor, it states that “When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.”

Remember you have the power to choose your thoughts so choose to be grateful because what you focus on will increase. Whether you complain about what you don’t have, or you’re thankful for what you do have, is a conscious choice you make. You can choose to be grateful for what you have and then strive for what you need next. Worrying over what you don’t have or can’t achieve in the present is merely a waste of energy.

Re-focusing on the good things in life can be a great way to stay positive and maintain your wellbeing. Here are some things you can do to help you adopt an attitude of gratitude:

  • Write a letter to a friend or family member. Tell them what about them makes you smile or what you most appreciate about them. Put a stamp on it and get it in the mail.

  • Send out thank-you notes to your colleagues, letting them know their efforts are appreciated and you are grateful they are there serving the community.

  • Look through your belongings. Find something that was a gift. Consider why you kept this gift and consider the thoughtfulness of the giver. Thank them, either directly or through your thoughts for the gift.

  • Call a friend and spend some time reminiscing of all the good times you have had together. Share your gratitude for those great memories with them.

  • A more common way to practice being grateful is a gratitude journal. Express self-gratitude and thanks for your life by setting aside time each week to jot down a few sentences of what you are thankful for. This isn’t something you need to do every day. A study suggests that one to three times per week may be sufficient. When you write in your gratitude journal, you should record five to ten things that you’re grateful for. Below are a few gratitude journal prompts that can help you across all ways of expressing gratefulness:

    • Simple pleasures. Think about some of the everyday things that you take joy in. A nice cup of coffee, your favorite song, people around you, a book? Anything that has brought you pleasure can be celebrated.

    • Happy memories. It doesn’t have to be in the here and now, you could focus on positive moments from the past. Memorable days, happy events, or times when you’ve felt content are all worth being grateful for.

    • Important people. Your friends, family, and even your colleagues can play a big role in your life. Think about the people whose love and support has helped you through difficult times and those who have been there with you for the good times.

    • Nature. The world around us is full of wonder and beauty. Consider something from your environment that you find appealing or amazing, or simply enjoyable. The warm sun on your face, the smell of freshly cut grass, or the beauty of Spring’s first bloom.

    • Acts of kindness. If someone has done something nice for you, no matter how small, being grateful can enhance your positive feelings. Similarly, if you’ve carried out a kind act, celebrate the mutually shared experience.

    • Accomplishments. Throughout your life, you will have worked towards goals, mastered skills, and demonstrated your abilities. Highlighting these accomplishments can help to boost your self-esteem.

If we allow ourselves to look, there is much to be grateful for.


bottom of page