Can Gratitude Improve Your Odds of Beating Cancer?

Updated: Jul 19

A 2019 study in the Frontiers of Psychology suggests that gratitude practices can improve breast cancer patients' psychological state and sense of well-being and reduce anxiety. I've seen firsthand how gratitude practices can alter my perspective and those around me, so much that this is a practice I can't live without.


According to positivepsychology.com, gratitude can help us recover from illness, attract more friends, learn to cope during stressful times, be healthier, and get better sleep. Are you grateful for the big and small things in your life, or are you someone who focuses on the negative?


No worries, if you're the latter. You can change over time by practicing gratitude anytime or anywhere and shifting your perspective. Here are five gratitude practices shown to shift your perspective and hopefully improve your odds of beating breast cancer.

gratitude gardens


"Gratitude can help us recover from illness, attract more friends, learn to cope during stressful times, be healthier, and get better sleep." — positivepsychology.com

1. Gratitude journaling

Keeping a journal of what you're grateful for can help you shift negative thoughts and become more optimistic. While at first, you might focus on the big things (e.g., I'm grateful for beating cancer or for having my child), as you progress, you may begin to hone in on the smaller details in your life that begin to add up (e.g., I'm grateful for this bed I get to make and sleep on every night).


Before you know it, you're grateful for the smell of coffee brewing in the morning or the quiet moment you get in your car listening to your favorite song or texting a friend. You suddenly might find your life opening up and creating more space. You might even find you're not as busy or attached to chaos or negativity.


When I've been in the midst of really hard moments in my life, such as getting diagnosed with cancer, it's the gratitude journal that helps me come back to the present moment and look at the big picture and really shift my perspective in the moment. While some days, my gratitude journal might be snarky or sarcastic (e.g., I'm grateful for the load of laundry I don't want to fold or the unanswered emails in my inbox), the practice of doing it helps me learn how to be more optimistic and not take the small things in life for granted like a beautiful sunrise or a long hike up a beautiful canyon. I've stopped whining about the shitty things going on my life and have learned to look at them as tools for transformation. Maybe cancer is a gift that helps you learn how to slow down and take better care of yourself?


2. Gratitude lists or prompts

Gratitude lists or prompts are similar to journaling, but you can use specific prompts to get started. Here are some of my favorites:

  • I am grateful for these friends in my life...

  • I am grateful for this particular thing that happened today...

  • I am grateful for this quality about my job...

  • I am grateful for these two things about myself..

  • I am grateful for these three smells...

  • I am grateful for three things in my life that are the color yellow...and so on.

3. Gratitude collage or Pinterest board

Create a collage—digital or old school, depending on your preference—of all the things that you're grateful for in your life, such as the sun, your children, your town, your favorite coffee shop, your favorite food, your home, your good health, a funny show—whatever you want it to be. Before you know it, you're probably going to be manifesting more of these beautiful moments in your life and suddenly you whole life might look like your collage.


Some people call these vision boards, and they really do work. Here's a vision board I created on Pinterest.


4. Gratitude prayer

Say a prayer when you wake up or before you go to sleep where you talk about all the things for which you're grateful. If you don't follow a religion, don't worry about it. Prayer can just be an affirmation for yourself. You don't necessarily have to believe in a Higher Power, but, of course, if you want to pray to God, then pray to Her. Here's a really interesting study about the power of prayer on water molecules by Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto.

“Water has a memory and carries within it our thoughts and prayers. As you yourself are water, no matter where you are, your prayers will be carried to the rest of the world. – Dr. Masaru Emoto

5. Gratitude letter

Write a letter to someone to whom you're grateful and thank them for something they've done for you. If you're not much of a writer, maybe you'll find a beautiful card or say something simple, but the act of giving can help you shift out of your own misery and think about someone or something positive in your life. If you don't want to mail it, just save it.


6. Gratitude garden or plant

Plant a garden or an indoor plant that symbolizes something for which you're grateful. My friend Alison has an entire garden on her farm that she calls her Gratitude Gardens, where she plants vegetables. fruit, mushrooms, herbs, and flowers for her children. In the spring, we drink tea in the jasmine garden and in the winter she makes dried persimmon leather.