When things are going our way, feeling grateful comes naturally — we appreciate our families, friends, work, and the simple pleasures of life. On a bad or stressful day, however, we might think there’s nothing much to feel grateful about.

But there’s a different way to think about gratitude — not as something that comes at the end, but at the beginning. When we actively practice it, gratitude sets off a chain of benefits. Study after study shows that gratitude can have a profound impact on everything from our sleep and relationships to our motivation to succeed at work.

This modern science has validated ancient wisdom on the value of gratitude. As the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.” 

In recent years, a wealth of research has explored the many ways gratitude improves our lives: 

Mental Health and Stress Reduction

Neuroscientists have found that gratitude literally rewires your brain to be happier. In one study at UCLA, participants were given prompts to induce feelings of thankfulness and their brain activity was measured using MRI scanning. Practicing gratitude was found to activate regions of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, lowering stress, and promoting feelings of self-worth and contentment. 

Another study by researchers at Indiana University found that participants who wrote about what they were grateful for over a number of weeks experienced improved mental health. And there is extensive research on the beneficial impact gratitude has on people with depression. 

Heart Health

A recent study in Ireland found that “gratitude has a unique stress-buffering effect on both reactions to and recovery from acute psychological stress,” which can contribute to lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health while also strengthening our immune system. 

Another study in Scientific Reports linked gratitude with lower triglyceride levels, while researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that gratitude interventions could improve heart health by lowering levels of inflammation. 


Studies show that practicing gratitude as part of your nighttime routine can help you drift off peacefully and improve sleep quality. At bedtime, writing down or just reflecting on the people and things you’re grateful for is a way of sending a signal to your brain that you are safe and secure, and that you have everything you need.


Practicing gratitude also impacts the way we connect with people. For example, studies have shown that couples who express their gratitude regularly and focus on what they appreciate about their partner felt more positive about their relationship and found more joy in each other’s company. 

Job Satisfaction

Gratitude can also lead to improved well-being at work, a deeper sense of purpose, and higher productivity. Expressing our appreciation of colleagues can transform our work lives, resulting in deeper connections to each other — and to the work we’re engaged in. 


There’s also evidence that grateful people are better able to cope with challenges, including serious illness, caregiving responsibilities, or a death in the family. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and author of Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, gratitude matters most when we are under crisis conditions: “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.”

Connection and Giving

What’s fascinating is that people who practice gratitude are often more generous and empathetic. There’s a neural connection between gratitude and giving — they share a pathway in the brain and when we’re feeling thankful, we’re likely to be more altruistic. Grateful people often find that donating to charity, or even small acts like giving tips in restaurants, can be more rewarding than receiving money themselves.


Whatever upheavals or uncertainty you are facing, there is always an opportunity to be grateful. “Living in a state of gratitude is the gateway to grace,” says Arianna Huffington, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global. “Find a way to gift yourself the gift of gratitude,” she says. “It’s a small miracle and it’s available to all of us, all the time. And the only eligibility requirement is being alive. As the saying goes, ‘it’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s grateful people who are happy.’” 

Here are a few Microsteps to help you practice gratitude in your own life.

Write down three things you’re grateful for in a nightly gratitude journal.
This will lower stress levels and give you a greater sense of calm at night.

Express your gratitude for something your manager did to support you.
Sharing your gratitude can strengthen your relationship with your manager and let them know their support is appreciated.

Say a genuine “thank you” to someone each day.
Expressing gratitude is a great way to connect with others, boost resilience, and lower stress. Whether you do it in person or in an email, make gratitude a regular part of how you interact at work.

At your next meal, express gratitude for the food on your plate.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions, with benefits for mood, stress relief, and resilience. Whatever you’re about to eat, take a mindful moment to be grateful.

Find a quote that helps you express gratitude.
Keeping that quote top of mind — or placing it where you can see it — will help you feel grateful and experience the associated benefits.


  • Elaine Lipworth

    Senior Content Writer at Thrive Global

    Elaine Lipworth is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who has reported for a variety of BBC shows  and other networks. She has written about film, lifestyle, psychology and health for newspapers and magazines around the globe. Publications she’s contributed to range from The Guardian, The Times and You Magazine, to The Four Seasons Hotel Magazine,  Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar,  Women’s Weekly and Sunday Life (Australia). She has also written regularly for film companies including Fox, Disney and Lionsgate. Recently, Elaine taught journalism as an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University. Born and raised in the UK, Elaine is married with two daughters and lives in Los Angeles.