April 26, 2016 Blog No Comments

portugal sun riseLast week we were facing some bad news and I wrote about ways to be more resilient. Pushing through difficulty has always been my go-to coping strategy. This week we’ve been in a place of gratitude because things won’t be as tough as we feared. What a difference gratitude can make!

I am reminded that gratitude really is a game changer. It reduces stress, it makes you happier, it enhances relationships, and it makes you more successful. It biochemically alters you and your brain functioning. That’s an amazing impact for a simple thought process. There is research documenting all this, which I’ll reference.


When you worry and focus on problems it automatically puts you in a fearful place. Your thoughts are focused on “oh no and what if”. Yes, it’s good to be prepared, but many people let the habit of worried thought go too far. When you are concerned about what will happen, it is not possible to be relaxed or happy. The constant tension in the body is a primary source of stress related symptoms.

By simply switching your focus to the things you are grateful for you move your cognition to a place of relaxed contemplation. In this place of reflection, your facial muscles relax, your breath becomes deeper and you move into a quieter internal space. You have just reduced stress.

What does the research say? In an experimental study people were told to record either their source of gratitude or their hassles. The gratitude group reported heighted well-being across a number of variables compared to those focusing on their difficulties. (Emmons and McCullough 2003)

Try it for yourself. Stop the worry and focus your attention on something you’re grateful for. Now, notice how your breath deepens and your body relaxes.


We choose how we think. We forget this. We can look at the glass half-full or half-empty, the choice is ours. I readily embrace the half-full thought process and consequently have a sunnier outlook than some. But last week, I admit I had to really work to find that perspective. Once I did, I lightened up. There is a lesson here.

When you keep looking for and finding the next better, more positive thought, your mood will lift.

As the study referenced above indicates, a deliberate gratitude review makes a difference. Making it a regular habit creates the most lasting change. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, throughout the day or a nightly ritual, focusing on what and who you appreciate can change your perspective.

When you are counting your blessings, negative things suddenly have a silver lining. Over time, this changes your approach and response to the situations around you and the people you care about.

By intentionally and regularly focusing your thoughts on what you appreciate, you will create more positive emotions.


If there is ever a reason to express gratitude, it’s to show appreciation to the people we love. What happens when we do this regularly, not just on a special occasion? More specifically, what happens when it is verbally expressed?

Oxytocin is known as the love hormone. It’s secreted during lovemaking and breast feeding and is responsible for creating tighter social bonds. Does it come into play when we express our appreciation and gratitude to a loved one?

Researchers asking this question looked at the genetic markers of CD38 and verified Yes. Expressing gratitude toward a loved one positively affects the oxytocin system, noting it “is associated with solidifying the glue that binds adults into meaningful and important relationships”. (Algoe and Way, 2013)

How profound! Do you want closer relationships with your loved ones, colleagues or your friends? Simply tell them how you appreciate them.

We are genetically wired to have significant bonds with one another – all we have to do is express it.


Gratitude can make you more successful too? Stop and think about it. How can it not? When you are noticing what you like about your situation and the people involved, and saying as much, that positive attitude radiates. You become someone others like being around.
From an energetic perspective, your outlook influences everything around you and like-minded people will gravitate to you. Like attracts like and you create a positive self-perpetuating cycle. Success will certainly follow.

Geoffery James, a writer for Inc., calls gratitude the “True Secret to Success” and says we need to exercise it like a muscle. Regular expression of appreciation and gratitude puts us closer to being successful because It allows us to enjoy what we are doing and puts failure in perspective. Without gratitude, he says, we are more likely unhappy, easily disappointed and angry.

Do what you love and express your gratitude for it – it’s a simple foundation for success.

What is your experience with gratitude? I know it has turned my life around on more than one occasion. It has that ability to be a powerful agent of transformation. Just as I discovered this week, no matter what you’re facing right now, if you focus your attention on the positive potential, the opportunity, the learning, or the personal growth that may be embedded in it, you will find a gift. It will lift you up.

If this review on gratitude is something that you’d like to explore for yourself, I welcome your inquiry. Finding perspectives that bring gratitude and it’s many benefits into your life is a hugely beneficial aspect to Transformational Life Coaching. It’d be my pleasure to explore it with you. You can reach me through my website, www.spectrumtransformation.com.


Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com