Healthy Beginnings

What is gratitude? And, how can we show gratitude to friends and family

The holidays present to us a time to acknowledge and express gratitude for the people and things and experiences that we often overlook each day. Expressing gratitude for these people and things and experiences – these gifts – can make our holidays more meaningful.

But, what is gratitude? How can gratitude be given, or achieved?

“Gratitude is a state of mind that arises when you affirm a 
good thing in your life that comes from outside yourself, or when you notice and relish little pleasures,” according to Robin Stern, Ph.D., associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Robert Emmons, Ph.D., professor at the University of California, Davis.

It’s an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has – as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Whether it’s the sight of your child smiling or a delicious bite of apple pie or the joy triggered by a good joke – we all have reasons to be grateful.

What are the benefits of gratitude?

Research shows that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can heighten our happiness and overall wellness. Expressing gratitude is linked to emotional health, satisfaction, well-being and happiness. Grateful people experience more joy and love in their lives, and have a reduced risk of suffering from depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders.

How can gratitude be practiced?

Practice gratitude as you might meditate or practice yoga. Gratitude practice begins by:

Paying attention. Notice the good that occurs during your day. Did you enjoy a delicious cup of coffee this morning? Did you feel the crisp fall breeze on your face? Did your coworker greet you with a smile? Pay attention and appreciate moments that add joy and serenity to your day.

Writing. Writing helps you organize thoughts and reflect on experiences, encouraging you reflect on and appreciate the goodness in your life.

Expressing. Many people in your life have helped encourage, inspire and shape you into who you are today – have you expressed gratitude toward them? Consider writing a loved one, friend, colleague or professor a thank you letter, or take them out for a cup of coffee.

The practice of gratitude is a thoughtful, warm holiday gift. Consider gifting your loved ones with gratitude this season.


  1. Adapted from “Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention,”
by Robert A Emmons, Ph.D. Dept. of Psychology, University of California, Davis and Robin S. Stern, Associate Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Journal of Clinical Psychology Volume 69, Issue 8, pages 846–855, August 2013. what-is-gratitude/
  2. what-is-gratitude