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Written by Alicia Cassels, MA

 What is gratitude?

“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.”

– 2011 Mental Health Letter publication, Harvard Medical School

The act of appreciative reflection is strongly associated with benefits such as:

  • Greater happiness
  • Stronger relationships
  • Dealing more effectively with adversity among others (2011).


Here are three things you need to know about gratitude:

 1. Gratitude is more than saying ‘thank you’

The act of saying “thank you,” is one of the earliest social lessons we learn as children. For many, remembering to offer a brief, “thank you,” without deeper reflection is the only role that gratitude plays in daily life. Researchers believe that there is much more for us to know about gratitude. What they know about the act of reflective appreciation can have significant impact on wellbeing, happiness, social connectedness, and much more.

2. Practicing gratitude may have lasting impacts

A large and growing number of studies have found that practicing gratitude is effective in improving wellbeing (Emmons RA, et al 2003, Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. 2010, Seligman MEP, et al. 2005, Wong et al. 2016, Wong, J., & Brown, J., 2017). Results of these studies indicate that individuals who practice gratitude consistently experience a number of benefits including:

  • greater optimism,
  • increased happiness,
  • greater alertness,
  • better sleep,
  • less loneliness
  • reduced feelings of isolation

3. Gratitude can be effectively practiced in as little as 10-15 minutes.

Gratitude practices associated with wellbeing do not require a great deal of time. Three gratitude activities that can be practiced in 10-15 minutes include gratitude journaling, gratitude letter writing, and gratitude meditation. The Greater Good Science Center at the UC Berkley has excellent resources to help you learn more about each practice and get started.

 Would you like to try a gratitude practice?

  1. Emmons RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(Feb. 2003): Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 377–89.
  2. “In Praise of Gratitude.” Harvard Mental Health Letter, Harvard Health Publishing, Nov. 2011,
  3. Emmons 2010 Why Gratitude is Good. Greater Good Magazine.
  4. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation. Psychiatry (Edgmont)7(11), 18–22
  5. Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions,” American Psychologist(July–Aug. 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410–21.
  6. Wong, Joel, and Brown, Joshua. “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain.” Greater Good, Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, June 2017,
  7. Joel Wong, Jesse Owen, Nicole T. Gabana, Joshua W. Brown, Sydney McInnis, Paul Toth & Lynn Gilman (2016) Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial, Psychotherapy Research, 28:2, 192-202, DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2016.1169332

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on April 13, 2018.