Tuesday 3rdof May, 2022.
Written by Clinical Psychologist, Ebony Collins.


Most of us have heard about the concept of gratitude. It either sparks interest or feels a little too contrived. The idea of appreciating things and expressing our gratitude for those things can feel uncomfortable. Understanding the benefits and how gratitude works can help with shifting this resistance.

Coming from the field of Positive Psychology gratitude is the process of fostering appreciation for both the tangible and intangible things that we experience in our lives. Rather than focusing on what we don’t have, or going in search of happiness, gratitude is about refocusing on what we have and learning to appreciate this.


Researchers have hypothesised that gratitude produces its positive effects through a number of mechanisms. By building gratitude we are shifting our attention away from the negative emotions and thoughts that can consume us.

It has been identified that the absence of negative thinking is more beneficial that the presence of positive thinking. Expressing gratitude helps to build satisfaction and happiness as we are looking and recognising the things that provide satisfaction.  

Gratitude like many interventions is not an instant fix. It builds over time. You may not see the benefits for several weeks or months. The key to feeling the benefits is to practice regularly as this works to train the brain.


There has been growing research into the benefits of gratitude. Some of that research has identified gratitude as helping to build more positive emotions, to improve health, to strengthen relationships, and to build overall mental health. Gratitude creates a dopamine release in the body that causes that feel good sensation when we express or receive gratitude.  

In reviewing the research around gratitude studies have noted potential benefits to include increased happiness, improved life satisfaction, better health, greater sleep, and increased resilience. Gratitude has been suggested to be the key factor in developing life satisfaction.  


Gratitude journals are a helpful way to start building your awareness. By journaling daily, you are changing the way you perceive your world. To reap the benefits of journaling you need to move beyond the obvious things like being grateful for your family. Try being more specific such as giving an example of something from the day that someone in your family did, like making dinner for you because you were tried.  Or look for things that you aren’t usually recognising as being grateful for, such as something in your environment, even the simplest of things. Look around your world, take it in and see if you can appreciate more of the things around you. 

Your gratitude journal isn’t just about finding the positive things happening to you. It is about learning to appreciate the things in your life. Sometimes you may appreciate that a difficult day is over, or the strength you had to get through that day, or that small thing that someone did that made your day a little easier. Think about that saying, “stop and smell the roses”. It’s about taking the time to acknowledge things rather than just continuously moving forward. When you stop or slow down you have the opportunity to notice things which allows you to foster gratitude.

If you are having difficulty journaling, try using an app with a gratitude meditation. It can be easier to develop these skills when we have someone prompting us through the steps.

Most of us have been trained to automatically say thank you. We can say it without even needing to think. This can lead to saying it without any real meaning or connection. Try connecting with what you are saying. Say thank you with meaning. One way to do this is to be specific. Explain what you are thankful for and why. Rather than it being a throw away comment, if you can be specific, it becomes meaningful.

Want the good news? research has identified that gratitude journaling 2-3 times a week is all you need. If you are someone who struggles with new habits, it might be worthwhile starting with daily practice and then reducing to 2-3 days. By finding ways to appreciate things throughout the day you will slowly change your thinking.