Why Gratitude Works

What is it that keeps us from being grateful in our lives and why does it matter?

Many of us learned that gratitude is connected to the experience of comparison and guilt – those that ‘have’ versus others that ‘do not have what we do’. We heard this at the dinner table with food when we expressed our dissatisfaction with the meal: “There are starving children in India/China/Africa, you should be grateful you have food on the table!” Or, when we didn’t have something others had, “You should be grateful your pain isn’t as bad as Uncle Joe’s pain!”  These comments have us feel guilty and as if what we have is taking something away from, or creating pain for, someone else. Some of us have carried this feeling of guilt and comparison about what we ‘have or don’t have’ into our own families and places of business and worship. We feel we have no right to our dissatisfaction (this job is tedious, I hate my boss, my pastor is a cold fish) as it would make us ‘ungrateful’. What if being grateful wasn’t something we ‘should do’, and instead, was something that assisted us in getting what we actually want?

Gratitude is a state of mind and that generates emotions of appreciation, wonder, thankfulness, contentment, love, and happiness.

It can feel like warmth in the body, a sense of grounded-ness, a slowing of the breath, spaciousness in the chest and heart, uncontrollable tears of joy or an automatic smile. The power of gratitude is in its ability to generate the kind of energy field needed for effortless physical manifestation. The universe that we co-create with our unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between what has or hasn’t occurred yet. It is not bound in time. If we imagine something happening now, our brain and the response from the universe see it as happening now. In quantum theory, we learn that the universe responds to us by bringing us more of what we are already generating through our thoughts and emotions in each present moment.  If we are feeling good consistently, the universe brings more experiences to us that feel good.

When we focus our thoughts and emotional energy on how we feel AFTER what we want has arrived, the universe can bring us experiences that match those feelings. The feeling we feel AFTER we get what we want is GRATITUDE. The more often we feel it, the more experiences will show up that has us feel grateful for them. Gratitude brings us back to ourselves and allows us to let go of guilt or comparison with others for having or not having. We all have the same capacity to generate gratitude for ourselves.

One way to generate the experience of gratitude is to imagine your desire already manifested and then ‘amp up’ those feelings by holding that desire in your mind and heart for at least 17 seconds at a time.

Another way is to start each day by listing everything that you ALREADY experience that you are grateful for. Small things are a great way to start – the warm cup of coffee, the soft snore of the dog, the sunrise out the window. I like the start the day by creating 2 columns on a page, one with the heading “What I Want” and the other one with the heading “What I’m Grateful For”. Then I come up with at least 10 things (large or small) for both columns. Lastly, I look over the first column and feel the feelings that go with having these desires as if they are already in my life, and then I let myself feel the ‘feels’ of the second list of what is already in my present moment experience. I fill up inside with feelings of gratitude. I start the day from a place of gratitude and it continues to generate wonderful experiences that I’m grateful for all day.

How can you tap into the power of gratitude today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. Thanks for this piece and the suggestions to cultivate gratitude. You are right a lot of us learned to find gratitude through comparison and I believe it that it serves me better to find gratitude in what I “have” and not by comparing to anybody else. For some I realize this is a quick way to find gratitude and if that is what you must do to find gratitude – that’s fine. That said, [NOTE: what follows is advice] I encourage you to move away from comparing and look for the good in what you “have” without doing any comparing.

    • Steve, thanks for your compassionate awareness that comparison may be where we start with gratitude, yet eventually the goal is to just acknowledge what is already here in our lives. I’m grateful for your insight and care!

  2. Very nice article, Wendy. Gratitude or showing and expressing gratitude is a good feeling not to mention the right things to do. As I am not a psychologist I cannot speak about any mental feelings gratitude brings. Gratitude has always meant as I mentioned showing it and verbalizing it. It is an important exercise for us to do as well as trach our children to do.

  3. Wonderful reminder to us all, Wendy. For it should not take being on the losing end to be grateful for even the slightest, most mundane things in life that impart the joy of being alive, no matter what life throws at you. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I LOVE this article so much, Wendy!! As someone who now lives in gratitude for everything that has happened-including all the unbelievable challenges (that I would Not wish on anyone!), for all that I have, for all that may come my way-including the challenges, I can attest that this practice has transformed how I experience being alive. I’m grateful to be Alive!!! My scraped knees that burn still remind me that I have knees-and I can still run with scraped, bruised knees after I tripped and fell two weeks ago! I have learned to flow through my heart with gratitude all the experiences of life that I have today, that I had yesterday-to feel what I feel and then let it flow with loving appreciation. My inner world has expanded with deep, enduring contentment, peace, grace. I’m grateful that I can laugh, cry, dance, giggle, think, feel, create, write, listen, see, smell, touch, contribute, serve. I feel unrecognizable to my former selves. Living in gratitude continues to transform my life from the inside out. Meditation has supported the expansion of gratitude in my core too! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    And I would add that the practice of gratitude can bring a person into the middle ground-away from a sense of entitlement at one extreme or a sense of unworthiness at the other. When you are grateful for the decent, kind, compassionate, healthy, self-aware person you’ve become, no one and nothing can take that inner, unwavering experience away from you. For me gratitude is less about material possessions-because these come and go-or could all be lost in a fire—-or all that is ever-changing in the outer world, but an inner, unshakeable experience of the joy of BEING ALIVE no matter what happens! 🙂

    • Laura

      I can feel your unshakable joy in the words you write. YES THIS is the potential from allowing gratitude to bring us back, again and again to what is FOR us in this moment. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is so beautiful and eloquent! ❤💯⚜