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Benefits of Gratitude Scientifically Proven: Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier

Sign on blue wood with writing that says Gratitude Changes Everything

In our world today, we are introduced, acquainted and bombarded with a multiplicity and slew of items, tasks, and ideas that vie for our attention and energy. From deadlines, diaper changing, and driving to pick up the kids from daycare, to getting ready for that big presentation at work and cutting back on water waste to combat climate change, the list of to-do’s, to-be’s, and to-don’t’s are almost endless. Through all of this, some may find themselves pumped up, burned out, enlightened, humbled, or simply craving the comfort of a cozy nap on the couch. But if you’re like many, you may be experiencing all of the above.

As we take a step back and examine our busy lives, we come to see that although they are filled with various ventures, activities, and affairs, several crucial and paramount components of our life may be lacking. In the hustle, bustle, and busyness of life, our psychological health, physical health, and spiritual health oftentimes find their place on the back burner, simmering away until we suddenly realize we need a bit of a breather.

While stumbling upon this realization, we begin to invest our time, resources, and energy into seeking out quick-fix schemes, weekend getaways, detox regimens, support groups, and sanctuaries, but what if there was a solution that came to you at no cost and could be implemented anywhere, anytime, and in any circumstance?

This free of charge and convenient option is the practice of cultivating gratitude, and we’re here to share the benefits of this stress-relieving and inspiring exercise.

Scientific research has discovered that there are discernible positive effects on our psychological and physical health by communicating our gratitude towards others.

These studies show that the benefits of gratitude range from positive emotion, lowered blood pressure, and improved sleep, to relief from aches and pains and stronger relationships. And who wouldn’t a big dose of that on the daily? Bring on the gratitude practice!

The simple activity of expressing gratitude and counting your blessings enables grateful people to take a step back from their lives and examine the good all around them. As they do so, a vast array of positive changes begin to take place. Gratitude researcher, Dr. Fuschia Sirois stated, “My research has shown that grateful people tend to look after themselves more by practicing more frequent health-promoting behaviors, such as eating healthier, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and avoiding unhealthy habits.” As these health-promoting behaviors take place, they result in a multitude of blessings and benefits and a reduction of negative emotions.

Many researchers have divided the endless blessings and benefits of gratitude into three categories: Psychological benefits, physical benefits, and spiritual benefits.

When it comes to psychological benefits, everything from positive emotions and thoughts, more awareness and being more awake, to increased self-satisfaction, and enhanced mood are present. As feelings of gratitude are cultivated and the expression of those feelings are put into words or actions toward both ourselves and others, they have a significant impact on our mental well being and nervous system.

A study published in 2016 in Neuroimage “found that practicing gratitude for three months physically changed brain activity.” Participants found that “they experienced more feelings of gratitude in general, and their brains also showed a lot more activity whenever they expressed gratitude, particularly in the medial prefrontal cortex.”

Other studies have also shown that gratitude enhances our emotional resilience and helps us to better combat stress, resulting in less depression and anxiety.

In addition to a multitude of brain benefits, several researchers conducted a study entitled Personality and Individual Differences, finding that “Grateful individuals experience a number of psychological health benefits, which in turn should promote physical health.”

This could be due to the fact that stating, listing, and reflecting on things we are grateful for, while displaying acts of kindness activate the same area of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which regulates bodily mechanisms.

As the body responds to the positive emotions that are cultivated through gratitude practices, it experiences pain relief, a stronger immune system, optimal cardiac functioning, and healthier sleep patterns. In layman’s terms, implementing gratitude simply feels good.

“God gave you a gift of 86400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?” – William Arthur Ward

While both psychological and physical health benefits have us stoked to amplify our thankful thoughts and expressions, a large portion of benefits also spew over into the spiritual side of things. Regardless of what religion one practices or what beliefs they hold, seeking and maintaining solid spiritual health is a priority for millions around the globe. As gratitude is implemented, many find greater purpose in life, are able to connect with something greater than themselves, cultivate more love and appreciation for themselves and others, and feel more safe and secure in their daily lives.

Sign us up!

Whatever level of gratitude you choose to cultivate and express in your life, the benefits are endless and there is an abundance of simple ways to start up this practice in your daily life.

Make a list:

Jot dot three things you’re grateful for each day. These can be simple things such as the smile from the stranger at your local grocery store, warm socks on a cold day, or your favorite Wednesday special at the diner down the street. Don’t be afraid to get detailed either. The more detailed the better. You’ll be surprised at how fun and enlightening this practice is. Whether you scribble down a short sentence while waiting for your grub to pop out of the microwave on your lunch break, or type a short paragraph into your phone about your stellar pals before hopping into bed at night, you’ll be thrilled to experience the joy that this simple practice brings.

List of things to be grateful for

Write and send ‘Thank-you’ messages: 

Nothing is better than giving or receiving a fun-loving text or note from someone special who is on your mind. Whether it’s short, long, quirky, quaint, or followed by a popular GIF, getting a message tied to gratitude can put the pep in anyone’s step. Whether you’re the receiver or the giver, this happy activity is a sure way to make the day a little better and brighter for yourself and others. Best part? It can be done in less time than it takes you to jam out to your favorite hip-hop tune, and you’ll feel great knowing you made someone’s day by sending a short and sweet message of gratitude.

Thank you words written in sand at the beach

Gratitude Meditation:

The meditation movement has been making its way into the lives of millions of people all around the world. Practiced for thousands of years by people of all faiths and backgrounds, meditation is a simple and stress-relieving grounding exercise that can be practiced anywhere. While many forms of meditation are practiced, gratitude meditation is a wonderful option when striving to cultivate thankful thoughts and feelings into one’s life. While doing a grateful meditation, bring awareness and intention to people, places, things, and experiences you are grateful for and rest in the joy that comes from dwelling on these blessings in your life. This practice not only fosters the warm and fuzzies, but it brings a state of recognition and appreciation for all that a person has gone through, accomplished, and overcome.

Yoga or Meditation at Sunrise by the Ocean


Prayer is similar to meditation but can be practiced in a more direct and personal way with a supreme being. Expressing gratitude to a Deity helps one to recognize that everything in life, especially the good, is given to us. This gives one a greater perspective, enabling one to understand that the beautiful things in our lives are blessings, extended to us out of the goodness, grace, and generosity of a God who is greater than ourselves.

Hands in prayer near the ocean


Here at Captain Dave’s we’ve put these practices into play and would love to share a few of our favorite and most wonderful things that we are grateful for.

Our incredible and loyal passengers: 

Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari has been operating for over twenty years, giving us the opportunity to connect with thousands of people from all different ages, ethnicity, and homesteads. It’s a privilege to enable our fellow shipmates to connect with the wildlife off of our coast, but it’s an even bigger blessing to connect with the people on-board. Sharing unforgettable memories, smiles, laughter, and of course, the oohs and aahs has us elated to sail out each day with each of our remarkable passengers. An especially large thank you to all of our loyal and returning guests who trek out with us over and over again, and those who have volunteered their time at our meal packing events and beach clean-ups. You make us more than a group of acquaintances sharing respect for the same sort of scenery, but a close-knit cetacean loving family.

Volunteers at beach clean-up at Aliso Creek


Our whalemazing year-round marine wildlife:

The waters along our coast play host to countless numbers of marine mammals, making Dana Point the Whale Watching Capital of the World. Each and every day is an opportunity to spot a new or well-known swimmer. From several species of both whales and dolphins, sea lions, pelagic birds, and so many more, our time in the “office” has us filling up our pails of praise for the magnificent marine wildlife we say hello to on the daily.

Blue whale surfaces in front of whale watchers near Dana Point, CA

Dana Point’s breathtaking sunrises and sunsets:

We have gratitude galore for the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets in SoCal. Each and every rise and set is unique and unlike any other. With hews of orange, yellows, reds, and whites to purples, blues, greens, and everything in between, our hearts are full of gratitude for the painted picture we see in the sky each morning and night.

Sun sets behind Dana Point headland and ocean (© Mirecca | Dreamstime)


With the holidays fast approaching and life bustling by, we encourage you to find a minute or two to give thanks for both the small and great things in your life. Whether it’s gratitude for a family member, a beloved pet, the air we breathe, or your favorite flick on Netflix, we hope it will bring a bundle of benefits and blessings into your life.

We thank you for reading and hope to ‘sea’ you next time.

Your Friends at Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari