Why the Practice of Gratitude Should be Top of Your List for 2024

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

Young woman relaxing at home.

As we step into the New Year, many of us look for meaningful resolutions to enhance our lives. 

Focusing on gratitude is a certain way to achieve this.

Gratitude is not merely a fleeting emotion, but in fact a cornerstone of healthy emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

Research published in peer-reviewed academic journal Clinical Psychology Review in 2010 found a clear link between practicing gratitude and having lower levels of depression and anxiety. There was also a boost in energy levels and general life satisfaction. 

Another study, published in 2022, showed that gratitude-focused writing decreased stress.

Amazingly, practicing gratitude also benefits our physical health. 

For instance, a 2021 review published in The Journal of Positive Psychology discovered that maintaining a gratitude journal significantly reduced diastolic blood pressure. It appears that being thankful and appreciative aids the heart by regulating and slowing down breathing to synchronize with the heartbeat.

Gratitude has also been shown to aid sleep and digestion, and give our immune systems a boost. 

But why does gratitude have such a positive impact on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being?

The power of gratitude

Gratitude acts as a powerful force that shoves away negativity and will always create light in places of darkness. Simply being grateful for the people, places, and things in our lives has a unique ability to displace feelings of depression, stress and anxiety.

In fact, depression, stress and anxiety simply cannot coexist alongside gratitude. This is important because these three negative states are often a factor behind various addictions and mental health challenges, as people self-medicate in an attempt to escape from the unpleasant symptoms they cause.

This is why many people starting recovery are advised to write a gratitude journal or create daily gratitude lists. Writing a gratitude list like this seems almost too simple, but it is in fact extremely effective at getting people to think in a more positive manner. It’s a gentle reminder of the things you’ve got going for you, helps bring back hope, and gives you a fresh perspective on life.

How to begin practicing gratitude

1. Gratitude lists

One strong suggestion is to write a gratitude list at bedtime and then read it first thing in the morning. It’s beneficial to fall asleep with gratitude inside you, and then to focus on it as soon as you open your eyes in the morning: it is such a positive way to start the day.

Many people find that the most effective way to write a gratitude list is to list up to ten things for which they are grateful. These can be “big” things such as good health, a supportive partner, a loving family, the comfort of your own home, and food to eat.

But they can also include some “small” things that are all too often taken for granted. This could be things such as having a cell phone, a computer, shoes to wear, even a pair of shoelaces… as well as the highlight of your day, the beauty of nature, the joy your pet brings you, or finding something you thought you’d lost.

Appreciating the simple things in life follows on from giving gratitude for the smaller things that we might otherwise have taken for granted. In our hectic lives, we often overlook the treasures that surround us every day. This is much to do with living in our heads too much rather than through our heart and soul.

A great part of recovery is learning to move from our head to our heart and soul. It’s a return in many ways to how we were as children – vow to rediscover your happy inner child in 2024.

2. Gratitude affirmations 

Using gratitude affirmations is another great way to rewire your brain to think more positively, boost emotional and physical health, enhance relationships, and improve your satisfaction with everyday life.

Positive affirmations for your life and where you are in it are a seemingly simple yet highly effective method for reactivating positive neural pathways.

Think of some of your own positive affirmations to begin practicing in the year ahead, or use those from the list below to get you started. Many people find that reading their affirmations aloud has the greatest positive result, especially when standing in front of a mirror.

Even if you initially feel resistance to this practice, and perhaps particularly if you really don’t feel like doing this, push yourself to do it. In the beginning you may need to fake it to make it, but the benefits will soon become apparent. Then, you’ll find yourself wanting to embrace positive affirmations as you feel their positive impact during this New Year.

Woman looking herself in a mirror
  • Each day, I’m progressing in every aspect of my life.
  • I am open to things working out for me. I am open to receiving abundance.
  • I am committed to becoming the best version of myself.
  • I realize there will be obstacles but I have the strength to get through them.
  • There are solutions for every challenge I face.
  • I persevere because I have faith in my journey.
  • The past no longer dictates my present or future.
  • I recognize and embrace my many strengths.
  • I am growing stronger in aspects of my life each day.
  • I can achieve great things this year.
  • I am creating a life that feels good and I am in charge of my happiness.
  • I am ready to encounter opportunities I never thought were possible.

3. Gratitude meditations

As with writing gratitude lists and saying affirmations, gratitude meditations can be a great way to reflect on the people, things, and places in our lives that we appreciate and are thankful for.

Begin with a guided gratitude meditation if you’re new to meditating (there are plenty of free recordings available online, for example via YouTube) until you feel more comfortable going it alone. 

Including a morning gratitude meditation at the start of your day can be a wonderful way to kickstart your new year, and is proven to promote a positive mood, build resilience, broaden our awareness, and protect against risky behaviors – helping us feel more happy, grounded, and satisfied in our lives.

As an added bonus, starting a gratitude meditation practice delivers near-immediate benefits, which can be achieved in a matter of minutes.

Focusing on the ‘Why?’

While it may initially feel challenging, especially for those trying to overcome mental health issues or addiction, remembering the ‘why’ for starting a gratitude practice will help keep you motivated and committed to your new daily habit.

In addition to the benefits listed above, here are three good reasons why the practice of gratitude should be top of your list for 2024:

Increased positivity

The act of practicing gratitude in any form is going to reactivate positive neural pathways, overshadow negative pathways, and increase positivity. 

Psychologists carried out a study in 2010 in which participants wrote weekly sentences on specific topics. One group expressed gratitude, another noted daily irritations, and the third recounted impactful events without emphasizing positivity or negativity.

After 10 weeks, the gratitude group exhibited increased optimism, improved well-being, exercised more often, and had fewer physician visits compared to the other groups.

This shows that we need to remember that we have a choice. We can focus on the positive thoughts and intentionally reduce the negative ones. Anything that we focus on gets bigger – whether it’s negative or positive. Opting for positivity is a conscious choice – and one that will have tremendous benefits for you throughout 2024 and beyond.

Improved relationships

bottom view of handsome young tourist stretching out hand, blue sky on background

It works with our relationships too. Regular expressions of gratitude are shown to contribute to creating a positive atmosphere within families, friendships, and work environments.

This positivity, in turn, has a ripple effect. It also helps increase empathy and understanding – so that people are more likely to understand and lift each other up.

Research by Harvard Health found that expressing gratitude within a relationship triggers the release of oxytocin, commonly known as the “love hormone.” This hormonal response fosters a deeper connection and bond between a couple.

More abundance

It has been shown that when we are grateful, we tend to get even more things to be grateful for. Think about gratitude as a two-way street – expressing appreciation for life’s blessings tends to attract more positive experiences.

Perhaps the Universe/Higher Power/God/the Creator, whatever is used to describe the greater power in this world, is the same. If we are grateful for this gift of life we’re given and the many things we have in it, we will consequently be presented with more gifts.

Practicing gratitude is such a positive power, offering so many benefits, that putting it at the top of your list for 2024 is a must. It will make you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually stronger, and more resilient when life throws any challenges at you.

Start by giving thanks for this New Year – and all the wonder and experiences it has to offer you and your loved ones. Embrace a wholly positive way of living in 2024.

The friendly, experienced team at Tikvah Lake Recovery has helped many people with addictions and all types of mental health problems. Located in a stunning natural setting, beside a picturesque lake, our luxurious campus is ideal for recovery.

Treatment programs include a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, holistic wellness treatments, and aftercare planning to ensure a whole-person approach that delivers long-term, sustainable recovery. 

Call us today to talk about how we can help you or someone you love transform your life and be free from addiction.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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