Practicing Gratitude for Pain Management

Research shows that gratitude can benefit not only your mental health but your physical health, too! Those who regularly practice gratitude report a higher sense of overall well-being and lower levels of pain.

4 min read

Your work email inbox is full, the children are arguing, the TV is blaring, your back is aching, and your empty fridge is reminding you that you haven’t gone grocery shopping yet this week. When dealing with the many challenges that life throws at us, we may find it hard not to feel stressed, tired, and tense. However, carrying this stress and added tension can sometimes show up in the body as pain and affect your mental health negatively. If you find yourself caught in these unproductive “thought spirals” about stress and pain, it’s essential to find ways to pull yourself out of them and protect your well-being. Gratitude exercises are a great way to get yourself to higher ground.

Research shows that gratitude can benefit not only your mental health but your physical health, too! Those who regularly practice gratitude report a higher sense of overall well-being and lower levels of pain.

So how do you start practicing gratitude? We’ve curated a list of top tips from mental health experts:

Keep a gratitude journal

First thing in the morning or before bedtime, jot down 3-5 things you’re grateful for, no matter how small. It might be your dog’s floppy ears, your morning cup of coffee, or your friend’s jokes. If you’re having a day when it feels more challenging to tap into gratitude, flip through your past gratitude entries. This can help refresh your perspective.

Practice meditation

Try meditation or mindfulness exercises to focus on the present moment and appreciate what you like about yourself and what’s going well in your life right now. Research has demonstrated that cultivating presence and gratitude can help to soothe pain, anger, and distress for those experiencing persistent pain.

Say thanks

Make it a habit to thank people who do something nice for you, no matter how small. This can help shift your focus from what’s wrong to what’s right in your life.

Practice random acts of kindness

Do something nice for someone else, with no expectation of anything in return. This could be anything from buying someone a cup of coffee, complimenting another’s outfit, or leaving a positive review online. Studies show that those who perform small acts of kindness report higher levels of happiness than those who don’t.

Be thankful for your challenges

Yes, that’s right! While it might seem counterintuitive, being grateful for your challenges can actually help you overcome them. Challenges can help us grow and learn, so next time you’re facing one, try to practice gratitude.

Find small things to savor daily

Savoring is a strategy that comes from the field of positive psychology, a branch of psychology that looks at the things that help people to thrive in life. Put simply, savoring is taking the time to fully experience joy and gratitude for everyday simple pleasures. It could be the fragrance of your afternoon herbal tea or the way the morning sunlight falls on the trees in your backyard.

According to research, making it a point to consistently savor small positive daily experiences can boost your resilience, happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. Create a savoring mindset by setting an intention to find opportunities to slow down, notice, appreciate regularly, and even prolong everyday positive experiences. For example, you might take a minute or two to inhale the fragrance of your herbal tea, enjoy the sensation of steam on your face, and relish the first sip.


While it’s always important to take time to pause and practice self-care, it’s especially crucial when you’re feeling stressed or experiencing pain. Thankfully, practicing gratitude can be a great way to improve your mood and reduce the amount of pain you feel. These tips should help get you started on your gratitude journey. Be sure to try them out next time you’re feeling stressed or having a pain flare-up. We think you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel!

About Kaia Health
Kaia’s digital therapy app offers 24/7 access to a clinically validated program and access to coaches and PTs to help alleviate back, neck, muscle, or joint pain. Through only a smartphone or tablet, Kaia’s technology guides members through proper exercise and provides real-time feedback on movements as accurately as a physical therapist.

Your health plan or employer may offer Kaia at no cost to you.

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