How Practicing the Power of Gratitude Changes Everything

UPDATED: November 20, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 21, 2018
Woman practicing the power of gratitude with her eyes closed and hands over her heart in front of lots of plants

We all know it’s important to be grateful—to give thanks for the good things in our lives. Yet, let’s face it, sometimes that is just easier said than done. Given the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us once more, I wanted to pen a few thoughts on how we can cultivate the power of gratitude in our lives, not just in good times, but at all times.

My dad often says he feels like the richest man in the world. It always makes me smile because, having been a dairy farmer his entire life, he never earned above the minimum wage (and that would have been during a good drought-free year!). Needless to say, when he talks about feeling rich, he’s not referring to the size of his pension plan (he never had one), but to the love in his life and the gratitude in his heart.

Don’t get me wrong. Dad, like all people who’ve made it to a ripe age in life, has had his share of hardships and heartache. He lost his youngest son—my brother Peter—after a long battle with mental illness. He’s supported his oldest son—my brother Frank—to adapt to life in a wheelchair after a motorbike accident left him with paraplegia. And he’s endured long droughts that took all his ingenuity to find ways to feed his seven children.

My father’s lessons on the power of gratitude

Dad has taught me a lot about the power of gratitude: how it can be a tonic in difficult times and lift our spirits when we’re down. He taught me that gratitude isn’t about how much or little you have but about the story you tell yourself. Gratitude expands our capacity to feel joy and infuses a deeper dimension into living. It’s not something to practice only when times are good—when we land the job, cure the illness, win the client or find our “soulmate”—but something to practice at all times. 

In fact, a little gratitude can help us stay far more buoyant when the storm waves are high and we’re struggling to stay afloat. Gratitude gives us access to humor amid hardship, strength amid struggles, and hope when despair looms large.

Of course, like any worthwhile endeavor, practicing gratitude demands ongoing effort. It’s so easy to let our innate negativity bias direct our focus and shape our lives, leaving us constantly dwelling on all that is not as we want it to be. It’s why so many spend the best years of their lives complaining, comparing and anxious!

Sure, life provides a constant stream of situations that don’t conform to hopes or fulfill expectations. But beneath that stream runs a deeper current of blessings that can easily be taken for granted. Gratitude takes nothing for granted. It shines a spotlight on all that is good, amplifying its presence, all while putting problems into perspective and emboldening you with the courage needed to respond to them more constructively, less resentfully.

Intentionally remembering to be grateful for the present moment changes everything

I’ve met people whose bodies have been debilitated by arthritis, who are facing an early death because of an illness they cannot cure, who have lost children to wars and homes to fires, yet who, amid their misfortune, have radiated with gratitude and a special brand of joy. How could they be so happy when life has been so hard? Simple: They live in gratitude. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “For me, every hour is grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.”

As you may also have experienced, I’ve met people who many might say landed the jackpot in life—flying around in private jets, mixing with the glitterati and enjoying every luxury money can afford—yet who seem lost and forever looking for something more.

The truth is that gratitude has nothing to do with good fortune.

Unleashing the power of gratitude in your daily life, therefore, takes no more than recognizing that life itself is a gift, that it has an expiration date and that every day—from the most pleasurable to the most anguished—is shaped by the mindset you bring to it. So be grateful even for the littlest, most ordinary things because one day you may look back and realize they were actually the big things.

The power of gratitude extends beyond the good and bad times

I am grateful for many things: my kids, my health, my husband and friends and freedom to pursue work I love. Yet I’m also grateful for the times when life has been hard, when my heart has ached, when I’ve wrestled with despair and longed for certainty. I know those dark days have sewn new depth into the tapestry of my life and brought invaluable opportunities to learn and grow in my own humanity. And I know that, over the year ahead, more will surely follow. While I don’t look forward to them, I know practicing gratitude will help me emerge through them more whole, not less so.

As Tal Ben-Shahar shared with me on my Live Brave podcast, “When you appreciate all that you have, what you have appreciates.” So wherever you are this Thanksgiving, pay extra attention to what you’re focusing on, and if you find yourself comparing, complaining and focusing on what’s wrong or what’s missing, don’t beat yourself up. Rather, forgive yourself for being the flawed and fallible “human becoming” that you are, take a deep grateful breath and refocus on all that you have to be thankful for.

Emotions are contagious. When you step into your power to live from a place of gratitude, you inspire others to do the same. After all, feeling the power of gratitude without spreading it is like preparing a magnificent Thanksgiving feast without sharing it… something my dad would never do!

This article was updated November 2023. Photo by – Yuri A/

Best-selling author and mother of four, Margie Warrell is on a mission to embolden people to live and lead more bravely. Margie’s gained hard-won wisdom on building courage since her childhood in rural Australia. Her insights have also been shaped by her work with trailblazing leaders from Richard Branson to Bill Marriott and organizations from NASA to Google. Founder of Global Courage, host of the Live Brave podcast and advisory board member of Forbes Business School, Margie’s just released her fifth book You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself. She’d love to support you at