How Gratitude Can Impact Your Overall Well-Being, According to a Therapist

"What we practice, by default or through intention, will eventually become real pathways in our brain."

Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images
Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

At Fortune‘s Brainstorm Health conference, actress Edie Falco explained how cancer, sobriety, therapy, and Buddhism prompted her to stop being cynical about counting her blessings. This is a response to the conversation between Falco and Arianna Huffington, shown here.

I think gratitude is different than positive thinking. I think of gratitude as the practice of seeing the other half of the truth. When people are depressed, they tend to reflect on and rehearse the half of the truth that is bad, sad, and negative. Being in a bad space tends to be isolating, so it can be hard to have helpful comparisons (e.g. “Well, at least I’m not dealing with ___”).

I also think gratitude is not about foreclosing on disappointment, hurt, anger, and sadness. It’s not about denying when something is awful. It’s just reflecting on what you still have, what’s good, and what’s better. 

And on a neuronal level, what we practice, by default or through intention, will eventually become real pathways in our brain. If we’re walking the path of negativity, that becomes the norm. Likewise with a habit of gratitude.

So it’s a dialectic. “That really sucks. And this is pretty great.” They are both true. 

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