Gratitude: Let’s Make It the First Thing We Remember

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.


I’m sure you know that heart-centered feelings, like gratitude and appreciation, can bring about beneficial physiologic changes in your body in a very short amount of time. But did you know that practicing gratitude and appreciation can make you healthier, smarter, and more energetic?

After years of studying gratitude, Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, found that people who practiced gratitude daily (for example writing in a gratitude journal) reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy than those who didn’t.

I remember years ago, my father said to me, “Gratitude is the first thing forgotten.” I’ve witnessed this many times in my own life—even in so-called spiritual individuals. With the stress and intensity of today’s world, it’s easy to forget to say thank you. Because we are all connected, this has much farther-reaching implications than you might realize.

Imagine if 1,000 normally negative or critical people practiced gratitude and human-kindness for just one day. The ripple effect could touch hundreds of thousands of people—and literally uplift countless individuals.

So here are three easy ways to practice gratitude every day:

1. Create Gratitude Touchstones.

Write your favorite memories or peak experiences on index cards and keep them close at hand as gratitude touchstones. Here are a few examples: your spouse, your sleeping child, a beautiful place in nature, a favorite pet, an exciting trip, a special moment with a friend.

2. Make a list of all the people in your life for whom you are grateful.

Who helped or supported you in 2013? Start with the easy ones, like family, friends, work colleagues, wait staff at your favorite restaurant, and close advisors. Let the list expand organically.

As you begin to picture the more minor players in your life, like the person on the end of the customer support hotline or the random person who smiled at you while you were at your favorite coffee stop, you may be amazed by how much help and support you have in your life.
Note: You can do the same exercise for the things you are grateful for. Don’t forget things that are easy to take for granted like heat, electricity, and clean water.

3. Appreciate yourself for all that you are and all that you do.

Take a moment right now to look back and acknowledge how far you’ve come since last year. (You can do this for shorter intervals, too.) Journaling is a great way to keep track of this kind of information. The point is to update your “self-appreciation circuits” regularly and genuinely. It’s easier to go negative! Don’t do that to yourself.

Right now, take yourself into your heart and acknowledge your good traits, what you’ve accomplished this year, and the positive ways that you’ve grown. Recognize the ways in which your presence on planet Earth actually helps and supports others.

Practicing gratitude for as little as 15–20 seconds, can lower stress hormones, increase the flow of oxygen to every cell of your body, and harmonize your heart’s rhythms with your body’s other systems.

If all of this happens when you focus for just 15–20 seconds on something that brings you pleasure, joy, or a feeling of gratitude, imagine what would happen to your health—and our world—if you were able to cultivate and express gratitude and appreciation on a regular basis. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

Last Updated: November 19, 2013

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Sunny
    5 years ago

    I am so grateful for having you in my life Dr. Northrup!!!!! Every advice, book, talk, etc… yours or somebody you recomended have been absolutely amazing!!!!!!! Thank you!!!! And, yes, I just finished reading (and will read again and again) Tosha Silver’s Outrageous Openness, and I love it!

  2. Linda
    5 years ago

    Hi Doctor Northrup, Just finished listening to your show on the discipline of pleasure it was so fabulous like all your shows. You Rock, l just love you. Your the woman that we all need and wish was our sister,a mother, a friend. I laugh out loud, i cry out loud l am just so moved with all the information you share with us .You have helped me heal by giving me permission to be every bit the woman l am.

  3. Christiane Northrup
    5 years ago

    Wow!! Talk about a cornucopia of gratitude! I’m opening my heart and arms WIDE to receive all the love you have sent me here. Hey Pat– that story about your mother-in-law’s apartment flooding just cracked me up!! Life is so much better when we just loosen our grip on the steering wheel of life and let the Divine take over, eh? Which is why I love that country song ” Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Angela– Tosha is the BEST, right? Love that you love her too. Happy Thanksgiving one and all!!

  4. Linda
    5 years ago

    I start each and every day with the Daily Health Inspiration. If I have to miss one I can always go back to Yesterday’s Health Inspiration. These wise and gentle words set my mood for the day and I am grateful. Thank you so much Dr. Northrup.

  5. Nan
    5 years ago

    You have taught me so much about myself over the years since I first saw you on a PBS special. I just want to say thank you for all the consciousness raising you do. Along the lines of gratitude, I have been amazed in the power of being grateful for EVERYTHING, not only the obvious sweet spots, but the growth enhancing struggles as well. I am always right where I am supposed to be:)

  6. Angela
    5 years ago

    I am so grateful for finding you so long ago when I was down and out feeling sorry for myself. Discovering you on Hay House was the greatest gift of all. I look forward to listening to you every Wednesday and to your e-newsletter. You are a fountain of good advice and knowledge no woman should go without. Also I wanted to thank you for introducing Tosha Silver on your show; I have been following her ever since you introduced her. Thank you.

  7. toby
    5 years ago

    Dear Christiane, I am very grateful for the important work you are doing in the field of medicine to remind us how essential we are to our own good health. I have heard that “Gratitude is Healing”. Thank you again for reminding us! I love your newsletter and constantly pass it on when the message resonates with those who I know will benefit. With much love and gratitude, Toby

  8. Roberta
    5 years ago

    Thanks. Shared to Facebook and am saving to print out. I need to remember that daily gratitude really helps, especially when getting ready to leave the nest of security and reinvent my life. You are a blessing <3

  9. barbara raasch
    5 years ago

    First I want to thank you for your newsletter – I look forward to them so very much.
    I practice GRATITUDE every single day. It has gotten me through some pretty rough times. Instead of focusing on the negative things in our lives – I always try to stay focused on all the Blessings & truly wonderful Gifts I have been given every single day – & it really works.
    Thank you again for your knowledge & your wisdom.

  10. Maria
    5 years ago

    I’ve just finished reading The Wisdom of Menopause, Dr. Northrup, and I’m so thankful to you for the amount of important information you’ve shared. I know that my life is better because I’ve discovered you! Thank you!

  11. Janet
    5 years ago

    Thank you for your blog and it is especially wonderful as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I would like to add that we also express our gratitude to the earth for clean air, flowing water, for our food, and to the sun for light and energy and to the universe of which we and earth are a part and participating in the ever evolving and changing cosmos.
    Peace, Janet

  12. Lori
    5 years ago

    Thanks to you as always; what a great ‘reality check!’ Big hugs to you!

  13. Jane
    5 years ago

    This is very timely. I bought a small rather decoratively delightful calendar/journal back in September. I intended to use it creatively and focus on the good in my day. This just affirms that intent and reminds me to keep at it! Thank you for your kind, wise words and warmth. Bless you.

  14. Sally
    5 years ago

    A heartfelt thank you for your courageous positive attitudes and acknowledgement of the human spirit!

  15. Sue K
    5 years ago

    Thank you for this lovely post. I plan to adopt the gratitude touchstone idea immediately!

  16. pat
    5 years ago

    Last year, cooking for thanksgiving, I followed along via your show, toxic imprint removal on my MIL/horrorday stress… Who knew minutes later her apt. would flood? Was she MELTING?
    Anyway, she canceled traditions nobody had EVER wanted. THANK YOU for many, many laughs.
    and happy thanksgiving !

  17. Blanca
    5 years ago

    Muchas gracias!
    I so appreciate your messages!
    God bless you:)

  18. Lindy
    5 years ago

    I love you Dr.Northrup.

  19. Tere
    5 years ago

    Thank you very much, indeed.
    I feel your healing presence in my daily life. It’s happily contagious!
    Lots of love back at you.

  20. Dar
    5 years ago

    I am thankful and grateful for all you share with us and bring to our attention…Thank you

  21. Pat
    5 years ago

    Your emails come at all the right times. Thank you for the wisdom you have shared with me over the years. You have through your books and appearances helped to stay true to my inner self. And today’s email speaks volumes to me. Thank you

  22. Shirly Oh
    5 years ago

    Thank you for the reminder Dr Northrup. Discovering your work is one of the grateful moments for 2013! I feel truly blessed in so many ways and inspired to share my learnings with others. May you continue to shine forth with your light and wisdom.

  23. Roxana G
    5 years ago

    Your lesson on the daily practice of gratitude is beautiful and useful. Thank you for putting it into words and actions. I heard you speak for the first time at Hay House Summit this year and you were very inspiring. All the best wishes Dr. Northrup!
    Be happy and be loved!

  24. Dorine cote
    5 years ago

    Thank you! 🙂

  25. Christina
    5 years ago

    Dr.Northrup, my heart overflows with gratitude to the people like You.
    I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to thank You for your work, wisdom, joy & pleasure
    You bring to my life. You are Amazing !!!



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