[Skip to Content]

What Is Gratitude?

Gratitude is when you feel thankful for the good things in your life. This could be stuff people often take for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, friends, and family. Gratitude is taking a moment to reflect on how lucky you are when something good happens, whether it's small or big.

You can use lots of words to describe feelings of gratitude: thankful, fortunate, humbled, appreciative, and blessed.

Here's why gratitude is important — and some ideas for how to be more grateful.

Why Does Gratitude Matter?

Being grateful feels nice, and making a habit of it is good for you. Like other positive emotions, feeling grateful on a regular basis can have a big effect on your life. 

Gratitude can:

  • Boost your ability to learn and make smart decisions.
  • Balance out negative emotions. People who often feel grateful are happier, less stressed, and less depressed. Rather than focusing on what you don't have, notice what you do have.
  • Lead to caring actions. When you’re grateful for someone's kindness, you may be more likely to be nice in return. Your gratitude can also have a positive effect on someone else's actions. Thanking people can make it more likely they'll do something thoughtful again.
  • Help you build better relationships. When you feel and express heartfelt gratitude and respect to people in your life, it creates loving bonds. It also builds trust and helps you feel closer.

When you make gratitude a habit, you become more aware of good things as they happen.

How Can I Make Gratitude a Habit?

Sometimes feelings of gratitude happen without you expecting them. But you can also create them by looking for things you appreciate. Each day, pay attention to stuff you're glad to have in your life so it becomes a habit. Slow down and notice what's around you. For example: "Wow, the sunset is beautiful today. What an incredible world I live in," or, "There's Sara. It was so nice of her to help me yesterday."

You might not always feel positive and want to practice gratitude. But if you're feeling down, that's exactly when you should do it for a lift.

Here are some ways to make gratitude part of your life:

  • Say thank-you often. Look for reasons to thank people and then do it. This helps you be more grateful and makes them feel good too. 
  • Start a positive journal. Write about stuff you’re grateful for — the entries can be brief. You can do this at bedtime each day. Try to find at least three good things that happened to you. Soon you’ll start to notice more positive things about the people in your life and yourself.
  • Make a gratitude jar. To help remind you to be more thankful, decorate a jar (or box) and put it where you can see it. Each day, write what you’re grateful for on slips of paper and add them to the jar.
  • Write a letter. Writing a letter to someone you value can help you practice gratitude in your relationships. You can give it to that person or not. Either way, the letter helps you appreciate the important people in your life.
  • Find a gratitude buddy. It can help to start a healthy habit with another person, so have someone join you in being thankful. Tell a family member or friend three things you’re grateful for, then ask them to do the same.

Practicing gratitude is easier than you think. Start now. What's good about this moment?

Medically reviewed by: Sabrina Gretkierewicz, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2023