“An affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”

“Recognition that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. ... We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

-Robert Emmons


Gratitude is an expression of appreciation for what one has or experiences. Gratitude has nothing to do with how much money or any monetary worth we have. It is a spontaneous feeling, generated from insight that generates goodness and warmth. 

Studies have shown that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude by making effort to count our blessings. It is possible to feel grateful for loved ones, friends, animals, nature, life in general and even adversities. 

Feeling grateful boosts happiness and fosters both physical and psychological health. Gratitude can also reduce pain, stress, insomnia and increase your immune system. Overall it has a beneficial impact on our mental and physical health.  



Benefits of Gratitude:

  • Gratitude can increase optimism and feeling of goodness
  • Gratitude can relieve stress. Stress can make both health and pain worse, so anything that can relieve stress can also relieve some of the negative health effects that stress causes.
  • Gratitude can strengthen your immune system. This is due in part to gratitude increasing optimism—which has been shown to improve immune function. 
  • Gratitude can improve relationships. Couples who express gratitude can find more positive feelings toward each other and toward the relationship. 
  • Gratitude can help you sleep better by allowing you to fall asleep more peacefully. When having trouble falling asleep at night, think of a few things that you are grateful for. This seems to really work.
  • Gratitude can make you feel happier, both immediately and over time. This can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety as well.

Being grateful is a choice. When problems, traumas, disasters happen, gratitude is a way to gain a different perspective from which we can view life as a whole and not be devasted by temporary circumstances. This point of view isn’t easy to achieve but worthwhile to give it a try and put effort in. 

If everything goes well we take life as granted and we feel invulnerable. In times of uncertainty, though, we realize how powerless we are to control our own destiny. 

Crisis can make us more grateful—but also vice versa gratitude helps us cope with crisis. When we consciously cultivate an attitude of gratitude then we can slowly build something like a cushion to use when we are going to fall. We know that grateful people are more resilient to stress whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals. 

One way to work on gratitude is to think of the worst time in your life, your sorrows, your losses, your sadness, your desperation—and then remember that here you are, able to remember them, that you made it through the worst times of your life, you got through the trauma, you got through the trial, you endured the temptation, you survived the bad relationship, you’re making your way out of the dark. Remember the bad things, then look to see where you are now.

Another way, actually the exact opposite is to activate the memory of a good experience you are grateful for. It could be anything that fills you with a pleasant sensation, like a scene from nature, someone’s smile, a spiritual encounter, or a happy memory. Try to stay in the memory for as long as possible. 

Positive psychology is not what we are aiming for as this field is not recognising the value of negative emotions. No one can stay always positive; we all have negative emotions too. Supressing negative emotions by positive thinking will do us more harm than good. Denying that life has its ups and downs, frustrations, losses, sadness, hurts and disappointments would be really unrealistic and untenable. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth. 

So telling clients simply to lift up, count their blessings, and remember how much they still have to be grateful for can certainly do much harm. Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. It is not a form of superficial happiology. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It means reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude. 

It is very interesting when talking to people with life threatening diseases that most of them see something good coming from their suffering. 

Out of something bad (suffering, adversity, affliction) can come something good (new life or new opportunities) for which the person feels profoundly grateful. 

Here are some questions you can ask your clients. The unpleasant experiences in our lives don’t have to be of the traumatic variety in order for us to gratefully benefit from them. 

  • What lessons did the experience teach me?
  • Can I find ways to be thankful for what happened to me now?
  • What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me?
  • How am I now more the person I want to be because of it? Have my negative feelings about the experience limited or prevented my ability to feel gratitude in the time since it occurred?
  • Has the experience removed a personal obstacle that previously prevented me from feeling grateful? 
  • Remember, your goal is not to relive the experience but rather to get a new perspective on it. Simply rehearsing an upsetting event makes us feel worse about it. Emotional venting without accompanying insight does not produce change. No amount of writing about the event will help unless you are able to take a fresh, redemptive perspective on it. This is an advantage that grateful people have—and it is a skill that anyone can learn.


Gratitude is a powerful tool...since what you rest your attention upon is what will shape your brain the most. That’s because “neurons that fire together, wire together.” Gratitude shifts your attention away from resentment, regret, and guilt –and therefore stops you from building up the neural substrates of these known factors of mental and physical health problems. 

–Rick Hanson



Counting your blessing in adversity

We all can count many, many blessings (at least 100) in every adversity. Just ask yourself: (a few examples)

What has become better, changed to the better_____________ since you have been for example diagnosed with cancer?

What has become better, changed to the better _____________ since you had your divorce?

What has become better, changed to the better _____________ since you went through your financial crisis ?

You can fill in any kind of trauma or problem that has happened to you. 

Then work through the seven areas of life and collect all the changes that have made your life better as a result of the event you have listed.

How has your spiritual life improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

How have your relationships improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

How has your physical health improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

What have you learned since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

How have your finances improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

How has you social status improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

How has your work improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

Most people would say that at first glance there is nothing good that has come from their for example cancer diagnose. They even get angry if you keep asking the same question over and over again, but believe me, they all find over 100 blessings once they know what they have to look for.

Therefore, it’s important to give your clients a few suggestions at the beginning and then guide them through the whole program while you write down all the blessings they can find.

This process is very powerful in a group as most clients support and inspire each other with their findings. If a client reaches the critical mass of blessings, they switch into a state of gratitude. This will affect the whole group and all of a sudden you see many more follow the lead.

Let me give you a few examples for some of the categories.

How has your spiritual life improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

  • I have started to read spiritual books
  • I have come back to prayer and spiritual practice
  • I have spoken with a priest and found help
  • I have joined a yoga and meditation group
  • I appreciate every day more consciously
  • I have new friends in our weekly meetings at church
  • I have learnt about reincarnation and like it
  • I have spoken with my children about death and feel so much better

How have your relationships improved since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

  • I have made peace with my father and have visited him
  • I have spent a lot more quality time with my kids
  • I have stopped nagging my husband/wife
  • I have less pressure from my partner
  • I select the people I want to spend my time with more carefully
  • I have changed my circle of friends and associates
  • And so on.

What have you learnt since you have been diagnosed with cancer?

  • I have learnt about the toxic dangers in which we live
  • I have learnt that we have to protect our children
  • That the DNA is destroyed by plastics and PCAs
  • That we use too many chemicals in our food
  • That all preservatives kill our digestive system
  • And so on.


Ideas for Gratitude Cultivation

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.

2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness. 

3. Activate the Memory of a Good Experience you are grateful for. It could be anything that fills you with a pleasant sensation, like a scene from nature, someone’s smile, a spiritual encounter, or a happy memory.

4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.

5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.

7. Count your Blessings. Make an extensive list of all the blessing that arose from the adversity you experience. 

8. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.



Further studying but not required: 

Book: The Gratitude Effect by Dr. John Demartini