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How gratitude can make you whole

Written by Tracy Schreiner, DNP, MBA, MSN, RN, CENP, adjunct faculty, A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies (ATSU-CGHS) nursing program.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  – Marcus Tullius Cicero

What is the ideal definition of gratitude?

To best understand gratitude, you must put it into context. Some define gratitude as a virtue or an emotional response. These definitions are correct, as are others, depending on how they are applied. While there is no ideal definition, the one I align with combines the emotion that surfaces after a kindness or assistance from another has been rendered or in conjunction with an event that recognizes and appreciates the joy in life.

Is there evidence of psychological and physiological benefits from practicing gratitude?

It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment. – Naomi Williams

Interestingly, until the mid-’90s, there were nearly no research studies conducted exploring a possible link between well-being and gratitude. Since then, the number of studies has grown considerably. Results show that the more deliberate and frequent the demonstration of gratitude, the greater the increase in health benefits. While decreased depression, stress, and hostility are well-documented outcomes from practicing gratitude, the rewards extend far beyond psychological well-being. In addition to developing better coping mechanisms, demonstrations of gratitude improve positivity and help develop a cycle of healthy rewards.

Many research studies have shown that physiological changes can occur in the human body after repeated structured, focused expressions of gratitude. Behavioral cardiologists identify a marked link between spiritual and mental well-being, practicing gratitude, and improved patient self-care.

Can gratitude impact relationships?

The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. – Charles Schwab

Practicing gratitude can have a profoundly positive impact on interpersonal relationships. There are a number of neurobiological studies being conducted exploring a direct connection between expressing gratitude and improving interpersonal relationships.

What are some ways to demonstrate gratitude?

Your choice to appreciate someone, something, or some event, as well as your method of expression lies within you. There are many ways to do this, but you must always match the depth and breadth of your gratitude to the experience. Some recommended approaches include:

ATSU Curricular Applications

Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Nurses are typically taught to leverage their resources so they can make situations the best they can be. They maintain that gift through lifelong learning. The graduate nursing programs at ATSU, both the master of science in nursing (MSN) and the doctor of nursing practice (DNP), reinforce this and provide many opportunities to integrate and express gratitude; as part of assignments and during interactions with faculty, other students, advisors, and to those students work with. Students are given entre to the heart of the healthcare challenges that matter to them personally and their experiences at ATSU helps them embrace available resources to spawn the changes they seek. It is this form of learning that allows them to pay gratitude forward.

Remember, make gratitude a habit, a way of life. An attitude of gratitude offers you the ability to walk forward with positivity. Gratitude can feed your spirit and the spirit of others. It can help guarantee opportunities never imagined.

Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out. – John Wooden


Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8(3), 425–429.

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377–389.

Gruszecka, E. (2015). Appreciating Gratitude: Is Gratitude an Amplifier of Well- Being? Polish Psychological Bulletin, 46(2), 186-196.

Mills, P. J., Chopra, D., Redwine, L., Wilson, K. L., Pung, M. A., & Barsotti, T. (2015, September 3). Sowing Seeds of Gratitude to Cultivate Wellbeing [Web log post]. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from

Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: the benefits of appreciation. Psychiatry (1550-5952), 7(11), 18–22.

Tudge, J. R. H., Freitas, L. B. L., & O’Brien, L. T. (2016). The Virtue of Gratitude: A Developmental and Cultural Approach. Human Development (0018716X)58(4/5), 281–300.

Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905.


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