The track of the sun across the sky leaves its shining, eternal message illuminating, strengthening, warming all of us who are here. It shows us we are not alone. – Choctaw prayer

One of my favorite parables is believed to originate from either the Cherokee or the Lenape people goes like this:

A grandfather is talking with his grandson.

The grandfather says, “In life, there are two wolves inside of us which are always at battle. 

One is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love.

The other is a bad wolf which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear”.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”


There is no better illustration of why a gratitude practice is so important and powerful. Intentions and thoughts are energy. In your day to day life, what you give your energy to dictates your reality. If you give your thoughts and intentions to positivity that will follow you. When you get trapped into the downward spiral of negativity it can be challenging to pull yourself out.

Family, friends, fuzzy socks, fur babies, good books, and tasty food are all things we enjoy. They bring us pleasure, companionship, and sometimes, even a little pain. No matter what our current mood about any of them are, these are all things that call for gratitude. Gratitude is something many of us take for granted, or at the very least underestimate. Most of us don’t make the time to express gratitude. Paying attention and expressing gratitude regularly in your life has a powerful impact on your mental, emotional, and physical state.

Gratitude is “the appreciation of the valuable and meaningful things in our lives, and the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude is an affirmation of the goodness we have in our lives. Making time to intentionally acknowledge gratitude will transform your life. Adopting a regular gratitude practice improves your happiness, decreases negativity in your life, improves your health, and builds stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Improve Your Mood

When you adopt a gratitude practice your focus shifts to what you have instead of fixating on what you don’t. Gratitude even pushes out focusing on what you think you need. Obviously focusing on the good things in your life helps you feel good. Naturally people that focus on gratitude have a more optimistic outlook on life. Gratitude boosts your happiness. A regular gratitude practice isn’t just a mental trick, however. Focusing on gratitude actually boosts dopamine levels. Yup, gratitude will physically help you feel more pleasure and satisfaction. It will also improve motivation. But wait, there’s more. Studies have shown that an intentional gratitude practice boosts serotonin, the other mood and happiness neurotransmitter. This combination paves the way for a boost in self esteem and overall optimism. As a bonus, a gratitude practice has also shown to improve your quality of sleep. If you’re anything like me, improved sleep goes a very long way into making you feel wonderful. A good night’s sleep is also something to be grateful for. 

Decrease Your Negativity

By shifting your focus on gratitude you starve the bad negativity wolf. Once your focus shifts to gratitude and your serotonin and dopamine starts regulating, negativity in your life cannot survive. Yes, there will still be times of intense suck and life will not be perfect, but with a regular gratitude practice you find that the bad things don’t affect you the same way they used to. In fact, in 2006 a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that even Vietnam War Veterans that practiced gratitude experienced lower rates of PTSD. Yup, even above practicing mindfulness, practicing gratitude is so powerful it can help speed recovery from shock and trauma. Gratitude is just one tool that should be used when recovering from traumatic events and it should be employed at the right time. It should be used in a way that supports recovery, not mocks it. For example, telling someone they should be grateful they have their arm while they're bleeding out after losing their hand is not helpful. 

You’re Not the Only One That Will Notice

People with a gratitude practice build stronger and more meaningful relationships. There’s a few reasons for this. First of all, when you share with others why you are grateful for them you make them feel good. Receiving a compliment lights up the pleasure center of their brain. Secondly, focusing on gratitude also boosts your own empathy. Fun fact, the same area of your brain that processes gratitude, the MPFC, also processes empathy. So in essence people like to hang with empathetic people that make them feel good. When you focus on the positive and express gratitude people just want to be around you. 

Even the most devout practitioners of gratitude will experience times in their relationships when things are not going so well. This is the nature of human relations. People who practice gratitude will, however, find that they have an easier time resolving conflict in their relationships. When gratitude is expressed in relationships it opens a very honest and vulnerable line of communication. Conflict, then, is given a safe place to be resolved. If you know how much someone appreciates you, you have a solid foundation with them when conflict arises. This foundation goes a long way to mitigate feelings of fear and unease when resolving any issues that arise between you. 

Good News About Gratitude.

A little gratitude goes a long way, and spreads like mad. There are limitless ways you can practice gratitude. You can practice it on your own, with a partner, in a group. Gratitude is also a wonderful thing to model and practice with your kids. 

Practicing gratitude is just that, a practice. Practice improves performance. When you make gratitude a priority you find what once seemed mundane worthy a tip of your hat. Beautiful weather? Grateful. Refreshing shower? Grateful. 

Gratitude is wonderful to practice during the cooler time of year when so many people are struggling with seasonal depression. It seems counter intuitive, but practicing gratitude is always important, even during hard times. 

Practicing gratitude gets easier with time. Once you do it long enough it just becomes a habit.  If it ever feels forced, or just another addition to your to-do list, change things up. Explore ways to observe what you are grateful for that feel authentic.

How to Practice


Yes, journaling is cliche, but there’s a good reason for that. You don’t have to channel Charlotte Bronte and create some insightful masterpiece. Make it as simple or complex as you wish. If you already have a journaling practice, just add some thoughts on recent events that caused you to feel gratitude. If you don’t journal already, start easy. At the beginning or end of each day write down three things that you are grateful for. You can even do it on a memo app on your phone.  This is a wonderful way to wind down from the day,or set the tone for positivity in the morning. If writing things down becomes cumbersome, do less. Journaling is your tool to help you process thoughts and feelings. Even journaling once a week is good. 

Make a Gratitude Jar

This is an interesting idea. It’s a lot like journaling, but good for those of us that tend to lose the books, or that don’t have a lot of time during the day. Jet a jar, some note paper, and a pen and put it in a place it can live it your line of sight. Each day, or week, write down three things you are grateful for. Each time add the paper to the jar. On tough days look through the papers and remind yourself of all the things you have going for youtube be grateful for. Get creative with this jar. Decorate it, name it. Do whatever makes your grateful little heart happy.  Recently we talked about transitioning your mind and body into the fall season and mentioned putting a gratitude alter in your home. This little gratitude jar would be a wonderful addition. 

Balance Negativity With Positivity

Make a conscious effort to balance negative thoughts with positive ones, even with silly things. Negative thoughts come to us all, no matter how calm and collected we are. One thing I have been practicing this with is while driving. “Oh man, that person has their brights are on. . . at least the traffic isn’t that bad.” “Crap, this person just cut me off. . . at least the weather is nice.” It sounds silly, BUT I have noticed a big difference in my overall stress levels behind the wheel. “I’m really overworked and stressed out. . .at least the paycheck will be nice.” If you can’t come up with anything good, play with sarcasm and be grateful for your clever sense of humor. 


A daily meditation practice is a wonderful thing to have. If you have one, add in some reflections on gratitude every once in a while.  For some of us this can be a hard  thing to do. If, like me, you are one of those people, focus on putting aside some time on special days. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays are good examples. Make a point to meditate on what you are grateful for on those days. For those of us that can’t sit still, take a gratitude walk. Do this daily, weekly, or even monthly. As you walk, simply reflect on the things you are grateful for. This is basically meditation in disguise.

Grateful on all 5 Senses

If you’re struggling to find enough content to have a daily gratitude practice, don’t neglect your senses. Being grateful for a beautiful plant you saw, a wonderful smell you smelled. Never, ever forget to be grateful for a wonderful meal you tasted, or pleasing music you heard. I am often grateful for the feel of nice sheets, or the warmth of fuzzy socks. On lonely nights I’ve even been grateful to hear my pup snoring.

Mean it When You Say Thank You

Saying thank you has become very performative in our culture. We say thank you without even thinking about why. When you say thank you to people, mean it. Briefly pause to consider what you are thanking this person for before the words come out of your mouth. Not only will a genuine thank you make you feel better about someone doing something nice for you, you might just be making someone else’s day.

Share the Love

If someone does something that means a lot to you, tell them!  Seek out those that have made a difference in your life and express to them why and how important their actions are to you. Make that phone call, send a letter. If you have to send them a text. This is an extension of saying thank you AND a relationship builder. Write a letter to those that have made a difference in your life.


Observing gratitude is a powerful tool to help your mind, body, and relationships. A gratitude practice can also be as simple or complex as you want. Make it work for your life and schedule. Little things add up and create big changes. Feed the good wolf. Fill your world with kindness, bravery, love, and gratitude. Starve out greed, hatred, and fear. We certainly don’t need any more of that in the world.