12 Powerful Ways Gratitude Can Make Life Better

Young woman prayerfully giving gratitude in field at sunrise

What are you grateful for?

It can be a harder question to answer than we sometimes think.

We’re constantly reminded of all the things that are wrong with the world. And you might be facing some pretty difficult situations.

It can be hard to feel grateful when it seems like the world is falling down around you.

But whatever situation you’re in, you can probably point to something good in your life. You have a well-paying job; you have friends and family who love you; you have shelter and food. Maybe it’s something as simple as a kind gesture or a warm, sunny day.

Gratitude can be hard to practice when life is stressful or overwhelming, but it has a lot of benefits that can make life easier. Here are some of the top reasons you should express gratitude on a daily basis.

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1. Gratitude Improves Relationships

Gratitude is known to make you feel better. Unsurprisingly, this extends to feeling better about your relationships as well.

Whether with a friend, family member or romantic partner, expressing thanks helps us appreciate relationships more. It can help you feel closer to loved ones—and want to do more for them—when you’re thankful you have them.

Practicing gratitude affects how your loved ones see you, too. If you often tell them how much you appreciate them, they’ll feel better, and they’re more likely to do simple, kind gestures in return.

2. Gratitude Boosts Self-Esteem

When you focus on what you’re grateful for, you’re focusing on the positive. Naturally, this can tie into building self-esteem.

When you’re grateful for the gifts and skills you have, your accomplishments, or what others have done for you, it helps build your confidence. You’re able to see what’s good about yourself and what you’ve done, and you’re able to see that others care about you.

An adult daughter hugs her white-haired mother

3. Gratitude Increases Empathy

Gratitude, by nature, involves thinking about others—what they’ve done for you and how they’ve made you happy. Because of this, you’re also likely to start thinking about ways you might be able to give back.

Because you’re able to see what good has been done for you, you’re more likely to recognize how valuable these gestures can be. And that means you’ll be more willing to help others in the future.

4. Gratitude Improves Health

Feeling grateful helps with a number of health-related issues. For example, one study showed that people who practiced gratitude on a regular basis reported being healthier overall, did healthier things, and were more likely to get help if they felt sick.

5. Gratitude Helps Depression

Gratitude doesn’t just aid physical health; it can boost your mental health, too. One study found that clinically depressed individuals reported feeling better mentally after writing gratitude letters, and the effects continued long after they stopped the practice.

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6. Gratitude Reduces Materialism

Being grateful for what you have means you’re less likely to want to seek out other material possessions—especially if you tend to shop when you are stressed. In fact, and in part due to gratitude’s ability to increase empathy, being grateful for what you have means you’ll be more likely to give to those in need.

7. Gratitude Helps Improve Performance at Work

When you feel grateful about your job, you’re more likely to work hard and do well. If you feel grateful about your coworkers, you’re more likely to be nice to them and help out, which will reflect well on you.

8. Gratitude Fosters a Positive Outlook

By looking at what you’re grateful for, you’re actively choosing to focus on the positives, rather than dwelling on the things that make you feel bad or overwhelmed. This ultimately helps you view the world in a more positive light, and to feel a bit more optimistic about the future.

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9. Gratitude Is Relaxing

By stopping to think about what you’re grateful for, you’re stepping away from the negative. You’re taking a deep breath and thinking about the positives, which fosters a greater sense of calm and contentment.

Even better, gratitude can help you get a good night’s sleep. One study shows that people who feel grateful sleep longer and deeper, meaning they’re more rested when they wake up. Put simply, thinking positive thoughts and giving thanks throughout the day helps calm you down, allowing for a more restful night.

10. Gratitude Makes You Look Good

People like to hear “thank you.” They enjoy seeing others who are happy about what they’ve been given in life. You’ve probably been around people who complain all the time—and you probably didn’t enjoy the experience.

By expressing thanks, you’re making yourself look more appealing to others, as well as making them (and yourself) feel better.

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11. Gratitude Brightens Memories

When you think about things in a positive light, you can alter your memories—or, at least, how you feel about them. Take a bad experience you remember, and try to find something positive about it. Focusing on the things you are grateful for can change the memory into something less painful, and can give you a more positive outlook for the future.

12. Gratitude Makes You Happier

It should probably come as no surprise by now, but by focusing on all the things you’re thankful for, you’ll feel a little better about your life as a whole.

Your life may not be perfect (no one’s is), but there are bright spots—supportive friends, a loving spouse, a roof over your head, low debt, a cute pet you love… By keeping these things in mind, you can increase your overall happiness.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude has all sorts of wonderful benefits that can improve your life physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. What’s more, it’s easy to practice.

If you need a little help getting started, try keeping a gratitude journal. Take the time to say thanks for a few simple things each day. Tell a loved one why you’re grateful they’re a part of your life.

So go out and show the world what you’re thankful for. The benefits are well worth it.