How to Change your Life through Gratitude

October 12, 2023

By Kelly Holes-Lewis, MD

When we align with the feeling of gratitude, our whole life can change.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but it is the truth. And it is powerful.

Daily life can sometimes feel like a never-ending race, with stress and burnout as our constant companions. But here’s the truth: gratitude has the superpower to flip the script.

When we embrace gratitude, we’re not just sending good vibes into the universe; we’re rewiring our own minds and bodies for the better.

When we’re feeling stress, our cortisol is elevated, predisposing our bodies to systemic inflammation, which is a precursor for most any chronic disease – heart disease, stroke, hypertension or cancer.

Research has shown an influx of positive hormones and neurotransmitters are released with the practice of gratitude. One of the stars of the show is oxytocin, a super chemical that is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Oxytocin is what courses through a mother’s body after delivering a baby and helps create that incredible bond. Gratitude can make you feel more connected and bonded to others, too.

Gratitude isn’t just about listing things you’re thankful for at Thanksgiving; it’s a mindset shift. It helps us see what truly matters and puts our focus on the good stuff. It’s like a secret pathway to peace and positivity.

It’s important to cultivate gratitude within our lives, so I wanted to offer a few suggestions on how to do that. To reap the most benefits, find time to do one of these daily.

  • Create a gratitude box. Write one thing a day that you are grateful for and drop it in a box. At the end of a year, take the cards out and read the blessings that filled your life.
  • Write a letter of gratitude. The letter should be to someone who has been meaningful in your life. Fill the paper with heartfelt words and expressions of gratitude.
  • Gratitude journaling. Some potential prompts are:
    • What if the only things in your life that remained tomorrow are the things that you expressed gratitude for today? Write down three things that you would be grateful for.
    • Write down some things in your life that you are grateful for that money can’t buy.
    • Make a list of all the things about yourself for which you are grateful.
    • What is one part of your life that you won’t trade for any amount of money in the world?
    • Write about a person in your life who made you feel safe?
    • Think and write about the first time you felt loved.
    • Think and write about a place that you lived and felt like home.

It’s true that what we appreciate grows and what we focus on expands. When we look inward and express gratitude, we feel better, healthier, and more empowered.


Modern Minds with MUSC Health

Synchronicity is a subsidiary of Modern Minds, a non-profit organization dedicated to treating and empowering mental health and wellbeing. We often partner together to offer truly integrative care for Modern Minds clients, Synchronicity members and the greater Lowcountry community.