What started as an experiment, 30 days of gratitude, turned into so much more. That’s because gratitude is one of the most powerful tools we can use. Scientifically (you know I love the science!), regularly practicing gratitude actually changes your brain.
One particular study of nearly 300 adult participants found that the people who wrote a daily letter expressing gratitude to others reported significantly better mental health than those who didn’t. Even more interesting, participants experienced this shift after just four weeks of writing letters and the difference in mental health was even greater at 12 weeks.
But you don’t have to follow this exact structure to feel the results. I posted one photo on Instagram each day for 30 days that highlighted something I was grateful for. It was so simple but so impactful.
What does “better mental health” mean though? How did this actually change my life? While this can look different for all of us, for me, there were a few specific areas of life that were especially impacted. That’s what I want to share with you today to show you just how powerful 30 days of gratitude can be in your life.
1. It’s Easier to See the Good
How often do you get bogged down with what’s wrong? If your answer is “a lot!” know that you’re not alone. This is something I struggled with for a long time, as so many of us do. After committing to gratitude, however, this has shifted dramatically.
Intentionally practicing gratitude has actually trained my brain to focus on all the good in my life, instead of the challenges. And let’s be honest, there are always a lot of challenges—that’s life!
This works because gratitude actually blocks negative emotions like envy, resentment, and regret. While those emotions are normal and natural, experiencing less of them makes it easier to focus on what’s great rather than what’s not. Remember, however, that the goal is not to eliminate these feelings, but to give them less power over your behavior and life.
2. I’m a Better Mom and Wife
This impact of gratitude is one of the most important to me because my relationships with my husband and children are the most important relationships in my life. In practice, being a better mom and wife means I’m less reactive, more patient, more loving, and grateful toward them, which means everyone’s lives are improved.
The incredible thing is that when romantic partners, in particular, feel more appreciated, they are more likely to report being more appreciative and responsive to their partners’ needs in return. They also report feeling more committed to the relationship.
Pair this with the overall increased feelings of happiness and reduced feelings of stress and anxiety, and it makes sense that it would impact how you respond and behave as a mother or parent.
The thing I love most is that I can see how this has a tangible impact on our day-to-day lives. When life feels overwhelming, pausing to notice how much I have to be grateful for with each of my four, healthy, beautiful children can put everything else in perspective.
It’s also a great tool at the family dinner table. When the mood feels off and everyone is a bit grumpy, I often interrupt the bickering by asking everyone to share one thing they are grateful for. It’s amazing how quickly this can shift the mood and tone of the conversation.
3. I Feel More Connected to My Friends
I am lucky to have many good friends in my life and gratitude has only made these relationships better. Interestingly, studies support this, finding that gratitude strengthens social bonds. By focusing on the many ways the people around us have made our lives better, we end up feeling more cared for and loved by those people.
Not only do I feel more connected to and loved by my friends, but it’s made me a better friend too. I’m so much more in tune with how grateful I am for them. I’m also more compelled to express my gratitude to them more regularly whether it’s a quick text, a gift delivery, or a handwritten note.
4. My Mood is More Stable
Life happens, and it’s normal to move up and down within your Window of Tolerance as you go from happy and content to stressed or anxious and then back again. By practicing 30 days of gratitude, however, I notice these “up and down” feelings are now less present. My mood is more stable from day to day, regardless of what’s going on.
But this isn’t just me. A study with more than 400 participants analyzed found that those who wrote daily gratitude lists for just 14 days (only two weeks!) had an increase in their positive affect, subjective happiness and life satisfaction. They also had a reduced negative affect and depression symptoms.
5. I Feel Less Comparison
Gratitude actually directs our attention away from social comparison, which is so fascinating to me. This is something I didn’t expect as I shifted my focus to gratitude, but I’ve absolutely noticed that when I spend time focusing on the good that there is in my life, I’m less tempted to look at others’ lives and covet what they have. It’s incredibly freeing to go through life without the constant comparison to others. It helps me to experience more joy, more presence, and more connection in my day-to-day life.
6. Bonus: MORE Good Things Started Happening
The real question here is: did more good things actually start happening or did I just notice and celebrate more of the good things that were already there? We’ll never know, but it doesn’t matter because the end result is the same: my life got better in every single way with a very simple practice that I can do anywhere, anytime.
Are You Ready for 30 Days of Gratitude?
You don’t need a formal “challenge” to start practicing 30 days of gratitude—you can start today! One way to do that with a little support is to join Lindywell where we’ll be focusing on gratitude all month long.
Start your 14-day trial of Lindywell (current members can just log into their account!) and get instant access to our Balance and Gratitude Workout and our Breathwork for Gratitude, Grounding and Joy.